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Don't Abandon the Iraqis Now

The ‘Surge’ in Iraq, and the counterinsurgency strategy that the increase in forces was designed to support, has succeeded, in a very brief span of time, far beyond what most familiar with the situation there would ever have imagined – let alone realistically expected. A large part of the reason for this is that, in many different ways, the people of Iraq have shown bravery that we can only hope that Americans, if put into the same situation, would ever dream of showing.

Rather than simply taking the terrorist presence in their country lying down, many Iraqis, in many different locations, have shown amazing courage, not only by providing an ever-increasing amount of information to coalition forces regarding insurgent activity, but also by working to rebuild what the insurgents have destroyed, as well as by putting their lives on the line to drive terrorists out of their own villages, despite honestly not knowing whether they will wake up the next day to find that the coalition – currently their best source of protection – has succumbed to the calls from the home front (which are heard loud and clear over here, by civilians and terrorists alike) to leave Iraq, and has abandoned them.

In April and May of this year, and again from the beginning of August through the present, I have been embedded in some of the most kinetic combat zones in Iraq, observing Gen. Petraeus’s strategy from the ground level in several different locations, and have seen clear evidence of the strategy’s effects on the situation there, from increased security to improvements in quality of life for the Iraqi people.

I have personally observed Medical Operations, in which coalition medics and doctors provided Iraqi tribesmen and villagers with a level of care that had been unheard-of in this country even before the fall of Saddam Hussein. I have toured reconstruction sites being worked on by Iraqi contractors, and have ridden along in gun-truck escorts whose job is to protect these men as they work to rebuild their own country (while terrorists try not only to kill them, but to destroy any and all improvements they have managed to provide for their countrymen in infrastructure and quality of life).

I have sat in on meetings – both above-board and clandestine – with sheiks and tribal leaders, who want the coalition to help them help themselves and their people to achieve better and more secure lives, despite the fact that being seen consorting with the Americans immediately puts a price on each of these leaders’ heads; likewise, I have heard the concern voiced – more times than I can even count – that the coalition, which currently remains the sole source of stability and security in this country, will give in to the cries from home to abandon the Iraqi people to death, and will finally do so.

I have participated in combat operations which were driven solely by intelligence provided by Iraqi citizens who knew of terrorist plots and personnel in the area and called the Americans to let them know; likewise, I, like the soldiers whom I have covered, have had my life saved several times by tips from the Iraqi citizenry about IEDs and ambushes put into place to kill us.

Much, much more of this must happen if Iraq is even to have a chance at a brighter future – but at this point, though this is still a very broken country, with a great deal of instability, unrest, and upheaval, progress is inarguably being made.

What remains is a very long and difficult struggle, and it is very likely that the coalition’s goals – and its definition of ‘victory’ – will have to be revisited, perhaps more than once. Successful and stable nation building, after all, is a very different – and infinitely longer and more difficult – undertaking than ‘simply’ waging a counterinsurgency (a long and difficult undertaking of its own). Amidst the real but exceedingly fragile gains made by the ‘Surge’ and its accompanying strategy, there are no guarantees about long-term stability and effectiveness; at this time, the coalition’s presence is still the only glue holding this fragile humpty-dumpty of a country together.

A successful counterinsurgency is one thing, and five – even ten – years is none too long a time to expect it to take for such operations to succeed, if success is even possible (always an open question in a counterinsurgency, and one which is largely dependent on factors – such as the attitude and actions of the indigenous population – which are not under the direct control of the nation attempting to execute such operations). However, to wage a successful counterinsurgency and then to build a stable, autonomous, self-sufficient, secure state, which can be left behind entirely by the occupying army without risking its imminent collapse, is another matter altogether, and one which is not guaranteed at all – let alone feasible in the matter of mere months.

However, between the real progress being made and the disastrous consequences (for America’s national security and reputation, as well as for the Iraqi people) of abandoning this country to the terrorists, the way forward should be clear: continue to trust the man whose position and plan the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed in January, and whose strategy has shown results not seen in Iraq in several years. Not to do so would be to break faith with the Iraqi people, to whom we once presented ourselves as liberators, and to whom we now serve as the one and only chance at a better life, if not at life itself.

Jeff Emanuel, a special operations veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, is a columnist and a director of conservative weblog He is currently embedded with the U.S. military on the front lines in Iraq, and his reports, which are 100% funded by reader donations, can be seen at

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