I was on a conference call an hour ago with Col. Peter Newell, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team 1st Armored Division that works with the Iraqi Army, police and the Provincial Reconstruction Team in southern Iraq. My main question: what did he make of Col. Timothy Reese’s memo last week saying the U.S. had taken the Iraqi army about as far as it could go? Newell’s reply:
“This is not Baghdad,” said Newell, whose brigade works closely with the 10th Iraqi Army Division in the southern Iraqi provinces of Thi Qar, Muthanna and Maysan. “I’m disappointed to see the article written the way it was.” While “certainly there are frustrations” in Baghdad or other parts of the country where U.S. troops work with Iraqi security forces, “here we have a relationship that has allowed us to continue to operate,” including the conduct of”joint operations on a daily basis” with the Iraqis, as well as abundant access to intelligence. In fact, Newell said, he has a better sense of what’s going on in his area of operations after the June 30 U.S. withdrawal from Iraqi cities and towns, because of “combined intelligence between our units and theirs.”
I also posted a bunch of comments from two of my posts about Reese’s memo that seemed to come from those with first-hand experience teaching-coaching-mentoring Iraqi troops. And I have to say: I don’t really understand why Reese’s conservatism on health care should count against his observations on Iraq. This is his job, not health care. If Reese is conservative, so what? So are a lot of people in the military. To use that as a reason not to listen to their on-the-ground experiences is unhealthy.