Friday, June 16, 2006

MSM Blogs blog better than the Bloggers

Maybe. Maybe not. Best headline on a Friday I could manage.

William Arkin posts a fantastic recent recap, reproduced entirely w/ links:
Baghdad Acts Like a Real Government

An aide is fired for uttering the truth, an enemy “document” is unveiled in a PR stunt, basic data is deemed classified and will no longer be released.

Now Baghdad's acting like a real government.

Yesterday morning, I commented on troubling details between Iraqi proposals for amnesty and American political and cultural realities: The new government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was considering extending clemency to Iraqi insurgents. Any insurgents who had killed innocent Iraqi civilians wouldn't be eligible, Baghdad officials said, but those who had fought (and killed) Americans were okay.

I know I might have sounded like some Ann Coulter railing about indignities to American honor; my intent was merely to highlight a potential sticking point between al-Maliki's plan for reconciliation and what America would be able to bear.

President Bush was somewhat flustered in his press conference yesterday when he was asked about amnesty. A "sense of the Senate" resolution calling on the President to oppose the amnesty idea was promptly introduced.

Then national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley was asked in his press conference what he thought of the proposals, and whether Washington had communicated its displeasure with Baghdad.

Calling the prisoner releases and reconciliation a "complicated process," and "tricky business" with "lots of elements" involving "steps" and "details" and "mechanics," Hadley didn't answer the question.

"It is going to take them some time to work through the details and mechanics of all these things," Hadley said. He said his Iraqi national security counterpart was obviously going to have to address questions raised by the press reports and "some concerns on the Hill," but he urged some time, space, advice, counsel. "There's a lot to be discussed," Hadley said.

Or not discussed. Al-Maliki promptly accepted the resignation of the aide who described the amnesty plan. The Washington Post reports today that the aide, Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, stands by his account that amnesty might be extended to those who have not been involved in killing Iraqis, which of course is what al-Maliki himself suggested, and which, I understand, was briefed to U.S. officials.

I guess the whole issue will be swept under the rug, that is, until Baghdad indeed unveils its amnesty plan and it turns out to be exactly what the fired aide was describing.

Also swept under the rug, according to an earlier Hearst report in the Detroit Free Press (thanks SA) are statistics on the state of readiness of Iraqi army units. It seems that the U.S. has decided to stop releasing detailed readiness reports. The decision, Hearst says, came after the publicly released reports "showed a steady decline in the number of qualified Iraqi units."

That number is now classified. I spoke to a JCS source about this report. It appears that the issue in "the building" is that the four-tiered system used for rating Iraqi units was too stringent and perhaps "misleading."

Under the system, Iraqi units are rated Levels 1 through 4, from most capable to least prepared, and though the Pentagon rated three Iraqi battalions in Level 1 -- "capable of conducting attacks without U.S. involvement" -- last June, by February, no Iraqi battalions were so rated.

The talking points stress that "Level 1," that is, requiring no U.S. assistance whatsoever (meaning no assistance with logistics, intelligence, command and control, etc.), doesn't describe a absence of readiness. Some NATO units, my JCS source says, could not meet the Level 1 standard.

The solution? Well, guess what, it isn't to get more Iraqi units to Level 1 or come up with new standards that might reflect combat readiness; instead, the Pentagon decided to make the numbers classified. The Pentagon now rolls statistics into a larger grouping that combines Level 1 and Level 2.

My source though also muttered something very Washington and elliptical about not undermining the al-Maliki government, about "encouragement" and "progress." He proved he could be national security adviser to the President in his carefully parsed explanation about conveying the wrong "impression" of both Iraqi readiness, that the statistics were really owned by Baghdad and it was up to them to reveal the readiness of their forces, not Washington.

According to briefing materials prepared for the President's trip, Iraqi security forces are projected to reach their "end-state" strength of more than 325,000 members in December. The new metric of readiness is how many square miles of Iraq indigenous units have assumed responsibility for. That has shown a two-thirds increase since the beginning of the year.

In Baghdad meanwhile, Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak Rubaie magically released a captured al Qaeda in Iraq document yesterday, a document that gives a gloomy assessment of the state of terrorist forces and the insurgency. Never mind that the language of the document immediately called its authenticity into question.

"We believe al Qaeda in Iraq was taken by surprise," Rubaie says of the post-Zarqawi crackdown. "They did not anticipate how powerful the Iraqi security forces are and how the government is on the attack now."

I for one hope that they are powerful, though I suspect the al-Maliki government is as much fighting its own PR war, claiming strength and readiness as a means of reassuring the Iraqi people. They of course, will be a lot more confident in their own security and in their government when some of those square miles under Iraqi control happen to extend into Baghdad or other places where people actually live.
Nice stuff, huh? Oh, I'd add one thing though: the surface area metric is a nice way to blend progress with the long standing goal of an enduring base in Iraq (at least one). If we had an Iraqi army that operated at a true Level 1 status, we'd leave the country.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

я считаю: превосходно!! а82ч

1:49 PM  

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