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Center for American Progress senior fellow and former Reagan Pentagon official Lawrence Korb recently returned from a 10-day visit to Baghdad to “assist the government of Iraq’s efforts to strengthen public administration in its civilian ministries” and uncovered results that only affirm that “the surge is not working.”
Korb noted that U.S. defense contractors, who have benefited heavily from the Iraq war, were curiously restrained in talking about the situation on the ground on the record. Major defense contractors, including those from Blackwater and Halliburton, were mum about the troop escalation only until Korb emphasized that he was not affiliated with the media:
The long wait did allow me to speak to some of the contractors about the situation on the ground. When I assured them I was not a member of the press, they were unanimous that the surge was not working. One of them said that members of Muqtada Al-Sadr’s militia have sold their guns and melted back into the population in Sadr City and will buy back their guns at the appropriate time (our own security guard said something similar).
Korb noted several other problems facing the country, much of which has yet to even be noted by the mainstream media:
In their video conferences, Maliki and Bush do not really communicate. The official also noted that in his discussions with visiting members of Congress there is really not much dialogue, with both sides giving canned presentations.
The other thing that struck me was the lack of American soldiers patrolling the neighborhoods. In fact, in my whole time here I did not see one American soldier outside the Green Zone.
Most people speaking off the record believe that the insurgents will shift to other areas and lay low for a while in Baghdad.
But if one uses the reports of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and pushes the briefers, a different picture emerges. The place is a mess and despite the almost heroic efforts of some Americans and some Iraqis it is not getting better. One of the consultants told me not to believe anyone who says that the situation is getting better.
The real issue is if the latest surge will work. The most optimistic projection was “maybe temporarily.”
Korb’s multiple meetings with top Iraqi officials and his firsthand experience in Iraq last week provide further evidence that the rosy claims about progress in Iraq are simply a desperate attempt to spin an increasingly unpopular war.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum notes some additional details from Korb’s trip.