With less than two months to go before his division heads home, General Fil offered a mixed vision of the military’s role for the coming year. He said that if 2007 was the year of security, 2008 would probably be “a year of reconstruction, a year of infrastructure repair, and a year of, if there’s going to be a surge, a year of the surge of the economy.”
He acknowledged that dislodging Shiite militias from control of gasoline, government ministries and other sources of power would be difficult.
The biggest threat to Baghdad’s security is now Shiite militias, he said. Infrastructure weaknesses and unemployment are also serious obstacles, which American efforts at the local level cannot fully address because “these become national-level problems,” he said. Violence, meanwhile, despite recent declines in some areas, has moved to some degree to rural villages and towns from major cities, American and Iraqi commanders said.
As expected some of the violence has been displaced. And, shia militias remain a problem. But as he points out, if the peace can be maintained, and if the repair of the infrastructure can be begun in earnest, the possiblity of an economic turnaround is possible. And that of course means less unemployment, fewer warm bodies willing to take pay to be insurgents and an even better chance for reconciliation.
But the national government is going to have to start functioning at a much higher level than it is now for that to happen. MG Fil also said:
He and other military commanders have maintained for months that the conditions for national reconciliation have been met.
The "space" needed by the Iraqi national government, the conditions necessary, are now in place. It is definitely time to see some of the national benchmarks show progress and accomplishment.
But something else to keep in mind. Even with the strong rejection of violence by the Iraqi people and the fact that 67,000 have joined the "Concerned Local Citizen" movement, the conditions now enjoyed could change overnight again.
The greatest challenge of the coming months, he said, will be satisfying the delicate hopes and expectations of Iraqis, who see security not as an end, but just as a beginning.
Stability, General Fil said, “is within sight but not yet within touch.”
“Close, but not yet within touch.”
Stability will only come with reconciliation, provincial elections, de-baathification, oil revenue sharing and Constitutional reform. And that is an all-Iraqi show.
I know those who are wedded to the idea of a failed Iraq are calling me a deluded idiot and worse. But things are improving slowly. My relatives in Baghdad say there's no comparison; things are much better than they were six months ago. They can visit friends in different areas and walk about the neighbourhood in the evening.
Frankly, I don't understand why so many mock us for wanting a future for Iraq. Is your hatred for George Bush so great that you prefer to see millions of civilians suffer just to prove him wrong?
I wonder as well, but welcome to the club.
UPDATE II: Bill Ardolino has much, much more here.