Petraeus Tries to Make Headway in Iraq
Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Petraeus's West Point classmate, heads the training of the Iraqi security forces. He believes that by year-end, Iraq will be able to defend itself everywhere but Baghdad and Diyala province with help from coalition aircraft and intelligence. The National Police, a wayward Shiite force formed without the U.S. military's oversight, is farther behind the Army. Dempsey reports that half of the eight brigades have been retrained and five brigade commanders suspected of sectarian crimes have been fired. "They have not been prosecuted, but they are out," he says.
The unfolding Baghdad security plan will test just how ready Iraq's forces really are. While one quarter of Iraqi troops are on leave at any time, some units have shown up with half the troops on their rosters. Some officers have been fired for taking on Shiite militias. But there are also good Iraqi officers who take their subordinates to task when they do not perform. A real question is whether Iraq's Shiite-led government wants a professional force, or whether it intends to use the security forces as an instrument to consolidate Shiite control of the country.
There is a newly realistic air among top officers. "There are several reasons why the policy may not work," acknowledges Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, who leads day-to-day military operations. "If so, there will come a time when we have to make adjustments." Petraeus knows well just how short that time may be.