The Germany-based commander of U.S. forces in Ramadi, the war-torn capital of Anbar province, has added to the military’s criticism of a Washington Post article that characterized a classified Marine intelligence report as saying the province was “lost politically” and in danger of being lost militarily.

Col. Sean MacFarland, who leads the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division in Ramadi, said in an e-mail response to Stars and Stripes that the initial news story “failed to put the report in its proper context, which was to inform commanders, like myself, of possible threats to our operations.”

“As such, it naturally focused on the bad or potentially bad aspects of Anbar.”

More importantly, MacFarland wrote, the story “fails to understand that senior commanders must choose their fight, where to be strong and where to accept risk.

“Clearly, Baghdad is the most important place in Iraq. Ramadi is only important to the extent that it influences events in Baghdad,” he wrote.

MacFarland characterized the daily fighting in Ramadi as a “supporting effort” and that troops there are “making steady progress against a determined enemy in Anbar.”

The secret report by Marine Col. Pete Devlin, a top intelligence official in Anbar, has not been released but was described in the Post article, which appeared in the Sept. 12 edition of Stripes, as being an unusually negative and grim report on the security and political situation in western Iraq.

After news stories appeared about the report, Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, who commands some 20,000 U.S. troops in Anbar, said in a telephone interview with the Pentagon press corps that he largely agreed with the intelligence report, but declined to go into its specific findings.

But Zilmer also said he had enough troops and was succeeding at his core mission: training Iraqi troops.

“For what we are trying to achieve out here I think our force levels are about right,” Zilmer said, according to a transcript. “Now, if that mission statement changes — if there is seen a larger role for coalition forces out here to win that insurgency fight — then that is going to change the metrics of what we need out here,” he said.

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