Commander fears impact of Anbar report's release
September 16, 2006
WASHINGTON — The U.S. commander of forces in Iraq said he is less concerned with the grim outlook for Anbar province in a classified report made public this week than with the potential chilling effect the report’s release could have on military discussions here.
Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, commander of Multi-National Corps–Iraq, said portions of the report saying the military cannot stabilize the region without additional social and economic improvements are not surprising or off-base.
“If you read the report, I think it is right on target,” he said. “I don’t think there is any military strategy alone, any kinetic operations alone which will create the conditions for victory. I think the real heart is that there are economic and political conditions that have to improve out in Al Anbar and in the rest of the country.”
But Chiarelli said he worries that the media reaction to the assessment could discourage other intelligence officials from giving clear, blunt assessments of progress throughout the country, even behind closed doors.
“You always worry that when a classified report ends up in the press, the fact that he’s called to task for that can create an effect that we don’t want to see,” he said. “We rely on our staff officers to always give us their best assessments.”
The report authored last month by Marine Col. Pete Devlin, whom Chiarelli called a reliable and honest expert on the region, said security in the western province is deteriorating and noted “we have been defeated politically — and that’s where wars are won and lost.”
Chiarelli added that he is comfortable with troop levels inAnbar, and said Iraqi troops have begun expanding their security responsibilities in the region. But he reiterated that military operations won’t be enough to stop the insurgents operating there.
“When we go to a local official and ask, ‘How can we lower the level of violence here?’ the answer is always, ‘Find jobs for these angry young men,’” he said. “We need political support, we need economic support in Al Anbar, and that’s true everywhere.”