30 november 2005

Stay the course (De andere kijk)

President Bush today delivered a magnificent speech on Iraq, again, in which he outlined his strategy for victory in that country, again. For those, like me, who have followed events in Iraq closely, looking beyond the usual media reports of car bombings and kidnappings, president Bush has hardly told anything new: the speech is an account of slow, but steady progress at the three fronts – politics, economy and security – in the fight to create an inclusive and prosperous country able to defend itself.

What are, in more specific terms, the administration’s goals at all three levels:

Politics: increasing the participation of the Sunnis, both voters ánd politicians, in the political process and, at the same time, marginalizing the hard-core Saddamists.

Economy: rebuilding infrastructure and reforming the economy thus creating the conditions for a prospering Iraq.

Security: conducting offensive, clear-and-hold operations followed by reconstruction efforts, while building and increasingly deploying Iraqi security forces, ultimately without coalition assistance.

The focus of this speech was on the increasing capabilities of the Iraqi security forces. President Bush will address other issues in other speeches further down the run-up to the December 15 elections. I hope to comment on them as well.

Here are just a few examples of progress made by the Iraqi security forces:
- more capable Iraqi forces provide better intelligence and generate more trust from ordinary Iraqis;
- from just a handful to 120 Iraqi combat battalions (between 42,000 and 96.000 men) in one year, 40 of them are in the lead on the battlefield;
- while American forces were in the lead during the assault on Fallujah in November last year, Iraqi forces led in recent operations in the city of Tal Afar;
- following the transfer of Haifa Street, famously called Purple Heart Boulevard, in Baghdad to Iraqi forces, attacks are down;
- transfer of 30 forward operating bases to Iraqi forces, including one in Tikrit, the city of Saddam Hussein;
- increased Iraqi ability to independently support their security forces with proper logistics, airlifting and command-and-control.

Those are detailed facts, not slogans, as one non-journalist preferred to call them. Moreover, Bush admitted setbacks and errors, but they were overcome and corrected. More setbacks and errors will inevitably occur, but they must be overcome and corrected as well.

As Iraqis grow stronger to secure their own country, coalition forces will step down. They will move out from Iraqi cities, perform fewer patrols and reduce the number of operating bases. They will return home, no sooner, no later, when the mission is complete, with the victory they have deserved. Setting an artificial timetable to pull out from Iraq is a dangerous option as Bush reiterated. Ultimately, it only takes the unwavering resolve of the American people and its politicians to win. Staying the course is the plan and what a plan it is! The freedom-loving world will benefit from its success.

PS. For more information on the progress made on the political, economic and security front, I gladly refer to respectively Iraq The Model, Good News From The Front and ThreatsWatch/Bill Roggio (blogger currently in Iraq).

PSS. A document, released by the White House, called “The National Strategy for Victory in Iraq”, an unclassified version of the strategy pursued in Iraq, can be found here (pdf).

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