Last week, Gen. Barry McCaffrey delivered a dire report on the Iraq war to White House officials, concluding that Iraq is “ripped by a low grade civil war which has worsened to catastrophic levels.” He wrote:
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.
Despite such a dismal assessment, in an op-ed entitled “No choice: Stay the course in Iraq” in today’s LA Times, McCaffrey endorsed President Bush’s escalation and called for the the American people — who he said had “walked away from support for this war” — to “support the US leadership team in Iraq for this one last effort to succeed.” He added, “We will know by the end of the summer if Petraeus’ strategy is going to prompt an adequate political response from the Iraqis.”
McCaffrey’s argument, however, is a clear departure from his previous position on Iraq. Just four months ago in the Washington Post, McCaffrey declared that “we have run out of time” and laid out a 36-month long timeline for withdrawal:
Within the first 12 months we should draw down the U.S. military presence from 15 Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), of 5,000 troops each, to 10. Within the next 12 months, Centcom forces should further draw down to seven BCTs and withdraw from urban areas to isolated U.S. operating bases — where we could continue to provide oversight and intervention when required to rescue our embedded U.S. training teams, protect the population from violence or save the legal government.
McCaffrey has been notoriously slippery about his position on Iraq. On November 26, 2006, McCaffrey appeared on Meet the Press and said “my guess is next four to six months are crucial” in Iraq. But on June 11, 2006 — five months before that — he was on the same show saying “I think between now and Christmas is the crucial time.” Time is up — redeployment from Iraq is now what’s crucial.