Late yesterday, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey delivered a new report to White House officials. Based on a recent visit to Iraq and interviews with Gen. Patraeus and numerous coalition officials, McCaffrey found Iraq to be “ripped by a low grade civil war which has worsened to catastrophic levels.” He added, “the U.S. Armed forces are in a position of strategic peril,” and — in contrast yesterday’s statements by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — found the situation in Iraq to be dire:
There is no function of government that operates effectively across the nation … There is no province in the country in which the government has dominance. … No Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, reporter, foreign NGO, nor contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi — without heavily armed protection.
In total, enemy insurgents or armed sectarian militias…probably exceed 100,000 armed fighters. These non-government armed bands are in some ways more capable of independent operations than the regularly constituted ISF [Iraqi Army].
But just one year ago, McCaffrey believed that Iraq was making progress. In a memo last spring, he wrote:
[I]n my view, the Iraqis are likely to successfully create a governing entity.
The foreign fighters have failed to spark open civil war from the Shia. The Samarra bombing may well have inoculated the country to the possible horror of total war.
The Iraqi Army is real, growing, and willing to fight. They now have lead action of a huge and rapidly expanding area and population. The battalion level formations are in many cases excellent – most are adequate.
The contrast between this latest assessment and that of last spring highlights, in McCaffrey’s own words, the reality that the civil war in Iraq has “worsened to catastrophic levels” and we “have very little time left.”