Strategic Imperative of Iraq – A Special Report
The Iraqi people, supported by the strength of U.S. and Coalition forces, have shown the courage to reject violence, creating a historic opportunity.
ACG Special Report from Iraq
Lt. Col. Bradley Gericke, who serves as Deputy, Commander’s Initiative Group for the Multi National Force – Iraq in Baghdad, has been sharing his on-the-scene insight into Coalition operations with our magazine readers in a series of Special Reports from Iraq (see our Dispatches department in the current issue of ARMCHAIR GENERAL magazine, January 2009). In this article, Gericke warns of the strategic dangers we face if we do not follow through on the Coalition’s hard-won gains in Iraq.
In recent months, calls to end the war in Iraq have reached a crescendo in the American press. While some oppose U.S. military engagement overseas in general terms, most call for the redirection of military forces to other campaigns. How to balance risk and resources among America’s many military requirements is an important question, but it is one that must be resoundingly answered by re-establishing the fact that America will be safer if it remains committed to Iraq in 2009.
The coming year, 2009, is extraordinarily important for Iraq because of the provincial elections in late January and the national elections scheduled to occur in autumn. These elections will solidify the political progress underway and place Iraq on the path to stability. And staying the course in Iraq will support a number of key strategic interests:
– Iran: A stable Iraq is the Middle East’s best counter to the regime in Tehran that trains, equips and funds terrorists. Within a few years it is likely that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons capability. American forces in Iraq are today countering Iran’s ambitions, and the stronger the Coalition makes Iraq, the better the United States can confront Iran using the full range of American power and influence.
– Counter Terrorism: A wide variety of U.S. national assets have been able to exploit America’s presence in Iraq to strike significant blows against international terrorist networks. Al-Qaida is one such organization that, while still lethal, has been substantially degraded in Iraq.
– Enduring Strategic Partnership: Iraq’s parliament recently passed a Strategic Framework Agreement with the United States to establish a long-term cultural, economic and political partnership. It also approved a Security Agreement that welcomes the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq for the next three years to undertake cooperative security measures, train Iraqi police and military units, and promote good governance and the rule of law. For the first time in many decades, Iraq is on the path to become a state that justly enriches the lives of its people.
– Oil: Energy is critical to the global economy, and Iraq possesses some of the largest oil reserves in the world. All that we can do to assist Iraqi exports and maintain the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf is decisive to the international economy.
Ultimately, the U.S. resolve in Iraq need not compete with the national commitments elsewhere. There is no doubt that in Afghanistan America must prevent the re-establishment of terrorist training camps. In Pakistan, a state wracked by sectarian division, the United States must stabilize the government and ensure its nuclear weapons are safeguarded. Each of these missions can best be achieved through special operations forces, diplomatic and economic means, and technological assets that do not require a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq or the subordination of our interests in the Middle East.
For the first time in generations, the people of Iraq feel a sense of hope about their future. The Iraqi people, supported by the strength of U.S. and Coalition forces, have shown the courage to reject violence, creating a historic opportunity. If the United States maintains its effort in 2009, and then follows with deliberate, conditions-based drawdowns in 2010 and 2011, America will likely gain an influential ally in Iraq and U.S. objectives in the Persian Gulf will be achieved. There is no doubt that the war in Iraq has been too costly and has gone on for too long – but now is the time to sustain America’s commitment to complete this year’s strategic transitions with honor and success.
Reported from Baghdad by Lt. Col Bradley Gericke, U. S. Army. He serves as the Deputy, Commander’s Initiative Group, Multi-National Force – Iraq.
Armchair General Magazine Extra: For more insight into coalition operations in Iraq, read our exclusive “10 Questions” interview with MNF-Iraq commander, Gen. Ray Odierno, in the upcoming March 2009 issue of ACG.