The state department and Iraq Posted by: McQ
on Thursday, June 28, 2007
Tying it all together, just spent a half hour on the a phone call with Amb. Lawrence E. Butler, who, since January has held the job of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Near Eastern Affairs.
My interest in the call had mostly to do with the State/military tie-in. As almost everyone agrees, success in Iraq is going to occur in the political side of things and the State Department through Amb. Ray Crocker will play a vital and key role for that for success to be realized.
Amb. Butler reviewed the scope and purpose of the present military side of operations and, for the most part, it was a recapitulation of what I've covered in previous posts. Like I said, I was more interested in the "civilian" or State side of this and how it all hooked up. So I asked him to outline how this was being handled on State's end.
At the tactical level, the "hook up" is through the Provincial Reconstruction Teams or PRTs. Prior to the Surge, there were 10 PRTs in Iraq. They consist of 10 to 20 experts in various reconstruction areas. They're headed by a senior State Department person who works hand-in-glove with the Brigade Combat teams in various provinces. There is also an expert in Civil/Military operations as well as a couple bilingual cultural advisers.
These are the teams which do the "build" part of the "clear, hold and build" strategy of counterinsurgency. They are the guys and gals who facilitate and coordinate the reconstruction projects in a given area. Sewage, water, power, etc. And they are so effective that, as I've mentioned previously, BCT commanders consider them a combat multiplier.
In fact, so valuable are they that when the original plan for the Surge was being put together only 5 PRTs were planned for. The outcry from the combat commanders was such that 5 more were added for a total of 10 for the Surge and now 20 for Iraq. Amb. Butler said it was probable that by the end of the year the total would be 25.
At this stage, the Surge's 10 PRTs only have 4 people, the senior State rep, CMO rep and the two cultural advisors. Once they assess their needs on the ground for their particular area, hand picked 'experts' will be assigned to begin the work.
That being the "tactical" picture, I then asked Amb. Butler, to describe what is going on at a more strategic level. How about the coordination at the Petraeus/Crocker level?
I've read that both Petraeus and Crocker have a very close working relationship and share the same view of the work to be done and the hoped for end-state. Although he didn't come right out and say it, Amb. Butler gave me the idea that what I've read is true.
Again, being familiar with the military plan, the plan for the civilian side is both complementary and supplementary to the military plan. IOW, that plan supports the goals of the military as well as providing a plan to leverage off the military accomplishments (time and space for the Iraqi government, security for the Iraqi people) to help the 1 year-old Iraqi government complete reconciliation and the other tasks necessary for Iraq to stand on its own.
Obviously we are very early in this particular effort, and certainly it remains to be seen whether success is indeed in the future cards. But again, judging simply by the plan (and with 18 years of operations and planning under my belt) it seems sound and, especially at the tactical level, seems to be building off of previous success (by increasing the PRTs).
Amb. Butler was optimistic about the State Department's chances at success in Iraq. He pointed out that they're not having any problems whatsoever filling slots for Iraq and noted that about 45% of those slots are outside of Baghdad in the other provinces. Given some reports I'd read, that was good news.
All-in-all a very worthwhile half hour that went a long way in filling the void about the activities on the political side of the fight in Iraq.
You are living in a fantasy world with your talk of reconstruction in Iraq. The ambassador must have been laughing down the line at you drinking in this stuff. His own staff probably don’t even believe it. You should be writing about the defeat in Iraq because that’s what it is already. Didn’t you read Lugar’s comments? Bush can’t even convince his own supporters with the fantasy and spin.
Hmmmmmmmmm.....I can believe Walter, or I can believe the Commanders/troops on the ground in the middle of the fight.
That’s a no brainer (sorry Walter, you lose).
And, just so you know....Lugar has been against the surge since last year. Nothing new there, except that now he may be worried he was wrong. Why else would anyone declare an operation a loss one week into it?
I’ve been reading the various surge reports and initial reports show progress. I am glad to hear the reconstruction/political aspects are moving forward also.
One thing I like about the surge is that the military leadership is explaining what they are doing...and their plans are rooted in classic counter-insurgency strategy. Its much easier to support them and have some confidence that way.
Also, the "80% of AQ got away" had to leave their bases, and probably a lot of material, to find a new place to hide. But wait, Anbar is not so safe for them anymore, and other places, too. Even Whack-a-mole would eventually work if you block up the holes.
Excellent post! Milbloggers have alluded to a critical State Departement component to the surge, but this is the first place that I’ve see details being reported on this. I share Butler’s hope for optimism, but I also hope that they have an alternate plan in place for if/when AQI & friends puts their reign of terror into overdrive.