Thanks for the neat read. Shek, Gen. Mattis points to the nature of his A.O. here-
"But unlike the sectarian violence elsewhere, it is al-Qaida in Iraq that the Marines fight...And the tribes realized they bought in with the wrong people."
Al-Anbar is important for it's own reasons, but is it the central battle any longer? I'd submit that American national interests are now more threatened by a Persian proxy-government.
As such, while Gen. Mattis comments are very valid to the morale, quality, enhanced training and overall improvement of his marines (and presumably our Army lads/lasses), and I'm encouraged by Mattis' comments on their progress in al-Anbar, I wonder if that'll remain the case as AQI remind the tribal sheiks of the emergance of an Iraqi government with a transparently pro-Shia AND anti-sunni agenda.
More to the point, how do we, as Americans, actually benefit from all this, aside from the demise of Saddam? I'm not even certain that baathist ambitions aren't still pursued from sanctuary in Syria while I'm completely certain that Shia ambitions from Persia are pursued.
Gen. Mattis places great reliance on shielding the Iraqi Armed Forces while they stand up. I hope so, but I'm unconvinced of their value and motives. He suggests this recipe to success-
"This is the U.S. approach: Get the security situation under control, the violence down. Get the Iraqi security forces trained and picking up more of the load. And third, assist and facilitate the Iraqi government becoming capable of meeting needs of the people. These things happen fast."
I've no evidence of speed to date. Do you? What does he mean, do you think, by this when we've been engaged with getting the security situation under control and the Iraqi security forces trained for some time?
"Now is Iraq going to look like Switzerland with its cantons of French-speaking Catholics and German-speaking Lutherans? No, it's not. But it can look a lot more stable than it is today, and get it down to a point where the Iraqi security forces can handle it."
Stability seems to be the objective, though his reference to a cantonment as an idealized outcome was interesting, though not realistic for the present. [Perhaps not desirable either].
Gen. Mattis says-
"There has to be a natural reconciliation."
There will be. The competing agendas will do so just as soon as they've collectively exhausted all possibility of advancing their goals at the expense of others. That may take an orgy of blood to accomplish, but it'll be as natural an outcome as you could possibly have. Perhaps, then, rational minds will prevail over vendetta. Meanwhile we're not even close to that point, actually.
Just to prove that I'm not a terminal sourpuss-
"If all we wanted to do was turn out an army over there, an Iraqi army that wanted to go out and murder everybody over there, we could do that literally in a couple of weeks and go home. But we are not going to do that. You have to teach forces to use ethical levels of force, and that's a lot more difficult."
Shek, if that's what standing up the Iraq Army truly means, then we will have done a tremendously good thing. If so, then I've nothing to fear from shia and kurd dominated brigades deployed to Baghdad while U.S. forces move away. If that is indeed the plan, and these Iraqi forces perform to those military and ethical standards.