Asked on PBS’s The Charlie Rose Show earlier this week about “how fragile” the surge in Iraq is, surge architect and American Enterprise Institute “military analyst” Frederick Kagan declared that “the situation in Iraq today is, I think, not that fragile.” He then added that he believed Iraq would be “fragile” if America made “the mistake of pulling out prematurely.”
“If we don’t make that mistake, then I think what we’re seeing in general terms is that the momentum on almost all of the trend lines is in the right direction,” said Kagan. “There are a lot of good reasons to think that this will continue if we don’t make the errors that would undermine it.”
Kagan’s bold claim about the surge’s lack of fragility is directly contradicted by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, who told CBS News this week that “while military progress has been made with a ‘surge’ of U.S. forces, ‘progress in Iraq is fragile, it is tenuous.'”
In fact, the very next day following Kagan’s remarks, the Guardian reported on one key aspect of the surge’s strategy that is quite fragile: the reliabilty of U.S. alliances with Sunni militia. The report noted that “Sunni militia employed by the US to fight al-Qaida are warning of a national strike because they are not being paid regularly”:
Leading members of the 80,000-strong Sahwa, or awakening, councils have said they will stop fighting unless payment of their $10 a day (£5) wage is resumed. The fighters are accusing the US military of using them to clear al-Qaida militants from dangerous areas and then abandoning them.
A telephone survey by GuardianFilms for Channel 4 News reveals that out of 49 Sahwa councils four with more than 1,400 men have already quit, 38 are threatening to go on strike and two already have.
Iraq is fragile beyond the question of whether American troops withdraw or not. “What happens if the Ayatollah Sistani gets assassinated?” Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Lawrence Korb has asked rhetorically. His answer: “All hell breaks loose.”