Headlines out of Iraq have been significant only by their absence, in part because of the
wars kinetic military actions, revolutions and unrest elsewhere in the region.
But it may at least be partly because the US Special Forces training their Iraqi counterparts in country are satisfied that their work in country is largely done:
Farhad rode shotgun in the leading Iraqi Humvee as a nine-car convoy winded through the deserted streets of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in the dead of night. At his request, the Americans wore the same black fatigues and checkered scarves as his men, so suspects would not think the United States was leading the mission.
The three vehicles that carried U.S. soldiers were painted in the same camouflage used by the Iraqi army. And despite their secondary role, the Americans were fully armed. “We remain in the background,” one officer one. “But we will use deadly force if needed.”
Tapping on a flat screen, communicating with those controlling the surveillance drones flying overhead, the U.S. soldiers focused on the dimmed taillights of Farhad’s vehicle as they sped to Tal Afar, dodging potholes and stray dogs.
The Iraqis “don’t just drive there and pick up the guy,” a U.S. Special Forces intelligence officer said. All suspects must first be read a warrant for their arrest written by a judge in Baghdad, he said. After a suspect is taken into custody, the Iraqi source who supplied information about the suspect’s whereabouts must confirm that the correct person has been detained.
Using U.S.-supplied night-vision equipment, dozens of Iraqi special forces operatives silently streamed into a one-story house in a rundown Tal Afar neighborhood. Seconds later, a man kneeled on the floor with his hands behind his back. One of Farhad’s assistants read him his rights and his warrant. The U.S. soldiers, recognizable only because of a small American flag on the shoulders of their uniforms, nodded in satisfaction.
The Post article linked above does more than hint at causes for future concern: The Iraqi government has not invested much cash in the US-trained Iraqi commandos, and Nouri al-Maliki has them on his personal leash rather than the Ministry of Defense. A US counter-terror force will remain in place, perhaps indefinitely. But, alongside unconventional warfare and CT, training in foreign internal defense is one of the core missions for US Special Forces: The SOF mentors allied forces, and when that training is done and the allied force is capable of acting autonomously, the Green Berets come home. Or re-deploy somewhere that their specialized skills are in more demand.
Seen through the chaotic lens of just a few short years ago, this degree of progress would have been almost unimaginable.
The ironies are almost painful: In 2008, then presidential candidate Barack Obama declared Afghanistan to be the “good war,” and Iraq an unnecessary distraction. But with a new
war kinetic military action of the president’s own to fight – one whose objectives are as unclear as the command structure in place to lead it – and Afghanistan perpetually teetering on the brink of failure or success, Iraq may in the end be our sole, unambiguous win.
One out of three gets you into the Hall of Fame in baseball. In warfare, not so much.