Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hugh interviews General James Simmons

Continuing to bust the myths about Iraq and the surge, Hugh Hewitt interviewed General James Simmons, deputy commanding general for MNF-I today, and to say the least the interview was as enlightening as the one he conducted with General David Petreus just a couple short weeks ago. Among things that are important to understand from the general is that things aren't as bleak as the MSM continues to paint them.

For example, when it comes to Basra:

HH: Now there were reports out of Basra a couple of weeks ago that after the Brits have withdrawn that the radicals had taken control of the city. Are those reports accurate?

JS: They are not accurate, and that is a fabrication at best. This was a planned turnover of the Palace and the PJCC to Iraqi control, to the Iraqi legitimate government forces. It was done to standard with, and to well-trained, well-equipped Iraqi Security Forces. There were some peaceful demonstrations that were celebratory in nature, but at no time was any Coalition forces threatened, and the local Iraqi officials under General Mohan, kept a good handle on the situation in Basra.

HH: So what is the situation then in Basra, because that Washington Post story made it sound like the Wild West without the saloons.

JS: It was a demonstration of OMS, or Shia people there that were celebrating, to the best of my knowledge, the return of an Iraqi landmark to the Iraqi government.

This was a key point int he interview because General Simmons is directly refuting the spin conducted by the media (mostly the British press who was hostile to Brits still being in Iraq). Basra isn't the "wild west." The handover was scheduled, as we knew when the surge began. Are there still some hot spots in Basra? Um, DUH! There are still areas of Iraq that are hot that US and ISF soldiers are working to quell. They'll get the job done provided they're given the chance.

On Iranian involvement in Iraq:

HH: General Simmons, how about their re-supply from Syria or Iran? Has that been interdicted? Do they continue to get the reinforcements that they appeal for?

JS: Well, on the extreme rogue Shia side, the Shia rogue elements that are operating outside of the political process, we believe that most of their financing, most of their training and most of their weapons systems to include the EFP’s, mortar and rocket rounds and RPG’s, are coming from Iran. We have had some success in locating and destroying some fairly significant caches that were clearly Iranian munitions that had been supplied to rogue Shia elements. The al Qaeda, we have seen more and more of a shift to using homemade explosives, which would give us some indication that we have interdicted their capability to be re-supplied with munitions from external to the country.

And ...

HH: Let’s turn back, General, to the Iranian interference here. General Keane said on this program last week that the Coalition had captured and is holding more than 70 Iranians. Are they your responsibility, General, given your duties as deputy commanding general?

JS: I do have some oversight of the corps’ piece of detainee operations, but Major General Doug Stone is the commander of Task Force 134. He is one of General Petraeus’ subordinate commanders, and he is responsible for detainee operations.

HH: All right, I’ll follow up with him. But then let me ask you generally, do you think Iranian-backed attacks are increasing or decreasing right now?

JS: I believe that the Iranians have supplied, they have surged supplies, training and munitions into Iraq to counter our surge operations that we are conducting.

HH: And what level does that rise to? Are they doubling, tripling their effort?

JS: I would hate to put a number on it, but what we saw was in July, we had the highest number of EFP’s that we have had in theater. Those EFP’s come from Iran. We have still seen a significant uptick in EFP’s, although the numbers are probably going to be lower in August than they were in July. The number of rocket attacks and indirect fire attacks into our FOB’s and our camps has been elevated, and the fires have come predominantly from Shia-dominated areas, and those are Iranian made munitions that are being fired in that. And then we have some very clear evidence that there has been training that has been sponsored by folks that use the techniques that Iranians use to train people.

HH: Can you expand on that a little bit, General, as to what kind of evidentiary markers you find that would lead one to believe the Quds forces are involved, or Hezbollah?

JS: It’s the techniques that they use for in placing the weapons systems, particular the indirect fire systems that they’re using, which require some form of military training to be able to execute that.

HH: Have we captured actual Iranians in operational settings, General, as opposed to simply doing espionage, meaning that they’re commanding and controlling attacks on Americans?

JS: I really don’t think I’m in a position to be qualified to answer that one.

It's about time that this is starting to make headway. We've known for quite some time that Iran has been fueling much of the insurgency, and even some AQI elements. (Yes, Virginia, Sunnis and Shias will work together if they have a common goal.) But this needs to make it out into the mainstream more, not less. The people have to understand that Iran's not there to give Iraq a helping hand. They're there to sow chaos, and hopefully topple the government. Remember, Iran wants a caliphate ruled from Tehran, not to live in peace with a neighbor.

On our military:

HH: Now that’s very good news. General, in our last ten minutes here, and you’ve been very generous with your time, I appreciate it very much, let’s talk a little bit about the American Army. A lot of pundits here, who, many of whom like me have never been to Iraq, are speculating that our Army, the American Army, is breaking under the strain. What are your thoughts on that, General?

JS: Well, a fifteen month combat tour here in Iraq is a very long time to be separated from your family, and it’s a stressful environment, and it is a tough fight. And we have some absolutely remarkable young people over here who just amaze me every day with their courage and their ability to go outside the wire and carry out their missions, whether it’s combat logistics, or whether it is combat operations, or whether it is flying one of the 502 helicopters, 532 helicopters that we have over here, or whatever it is that they’re doing. They go about doing it very, very well. I will tell you, though, that we have already met our reenlistment goals here in Iraq for the year, and we’ve got two months to go. So the morale of the troops that’s on the ground is relatively high. What I would tell you, though, is that as we continue in the fight, you have to have an opportunity to have a break from it, and we have many young leaders over here that are on their third combat tour. And the stress on their families back home is tough, and they feel that, and they want to be with their families as much as anyone else does. And they’re making a huge sacrifice on behalf of the nation. And so far, our nation has been very gracious and generous with our soldiers, and have supported them very, very well. I think you see more of a challenge once you redeploy out of theater, and then you start seeing the results of the stress and the wear and tear on the individuals, and on the equipment, and everything else. So we are, in my personal opinion, we are certainly not at a breaking point, but we are at a point where I think senior leaders should be concerned about the long term condition of our armed forces, and their ability to continue to sustain the fight.

HH: That’s a good word. What about the military collectively, and its evolution in terms of absorbing the information from the different circumstances and enemies there, and changing tactics and evolving its response? Has the American military been moving faster than you’ve ever seen it in a long and distinguished career? Or is it just doing what it’s always done well?

JS: Well, first of all, I think we are more adaptable than the Army has ever been, the armed forces has ever been. We have the smartest, most dedicated, most talented group of young people that I have ever seen assembled in the almost 34 years that I’ve been a soldier. And so when presented with dilemmas on the battlefield, or dilemmas with logistics, or dilemmas with communications, or intelligence, they very rapidly adapt, figure out a way to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle and to get us back on the offensive whenever the enemy changes their tactics, techniques or procedures. So I think that we have been probably the most adaptive armed force that has been in conflict in our nation’s history. That’s just my personal opinion as I have watched our young people deal with the insurgency operations here in Iraq.

Um, all you moonbats can thank Donald Rumsfeld for that vision of making the military more like a quick-response force. No longer are they tied down under the burden of following the letter of the handbooks. They can adapt at a moment's notice, and quickly turn the tide of combat back in their favor should they lose the offensive.

On the Iraqi Army:

HH: General, what about the Iraqi Security Forces? I know you must deal with them a lot on a daily basis. From the beginning of this year to the present, how’s their rebuilding going?

JS: The Iraqi Army gets better every day. The Iraqi Army, the 5th Iraqi Army Division soliders that fought alongside 3-2 Stryker in Baqubah, Colonel Townsend, the Brigade commander, said they were as good as any troops that he had ever fought with, and they did a magnificent job. We see the troops that are operating in Baghdad, and some of those troops are from Basra, some of them are from up north in Mosul, and some of them are from out in al Anbar, and by units that are usually stationed out there that have been brought into Baghdad for the Baghdad operations plan. We see them getting better as they work with our forces and conduct independent operations on their own in the districts here in Baghdad and throughout the area. The 8th Iraqi Army Division, which is down just south of Baghdad down here is a very proficient organization, and does very good work, as is the 2nd Division that’s up in Mosul.

HH: And within those divisions, and more broadly, the Iraqi Security Forces, General, are Shia willing to serve Sunni, and Sunni willing to serve and salute Shia, and operate jointly? Or is it two armies joined at the head?

JS: No, we see that inside the Iraqi Army, they’re Iraqis first, and that there is very little evidence of sectarianism in those formations. There is some challenges, of course, whenever you take a formation and you bring it here, and they’re separated from family and everything else. So sometimes, you have some morale problems from guys being away from their families and everything for extended periods of time. But what we have seen is inside most of the Iraqi Army formations, that Sunnis work for Shias, and Shias work for Sunnis, and it’s an organization that is working for the best for Iraq.

This is extremely believable given the recent inroads that Nouri al-Maliki has made between Sunnis and Shias in recent weeks. Add the recent fatwa against violence that Robert McFarlane collaborated with, and you have a picture where the sectarian differences are being set aside for the greater good of Iraq.

Finally, on the quality of life in Iraq:

HH: The quality of life, General, electricity in Baghdad and surrounding areas, is it getting better? Or are we going to be stuck with an old infrastructure, watching an old infrastructure fail regularly for the next couple of years?

JS: Well, they do have some old infrastructure here whenever it comes to electrical power generation, but that has continued to improve. And right now, as of this morning, they were generating about 5,200 kilowatts of power across Iraq, which is significantly higher than what they were generating prior to the war, and it continues to improve. It goes up and down as you work through the different problems from the generating plants being able to get oil, et cetera, and being able to generate power. But generally speaking, it’s pretty much stabilized here over the last several weeks between about 4,800 and 5,200 kilowatts a day of power across Iraq.

HH: Oh, that’s news. What about oil production, General?

JS: Oil production is…the oil is flowing out of the southern port of Basra. They generally have two ships docked there every day that are going out, and I believe the 46 inch pipeline going out through Turkey was reopened yesterday as well, so oil is flowing out of both of the two export areas right now, at the rate that we pretty much, well, the Iraqi government predicted that it would be flowing out at the beginning of the year. So that piece of it is working. We still have problems with getting some internal transportation of oil to the refineries that are here in Iraq, but that’s mostly because of, as you mentioned earlier, some aging infrastructure that runs out of the northern oil fields into the Baiji refinery.

HH: What’s the upside, what’s the upside, after having spent two tours there, and you’re still there, of the Iraqi oil industry and their electrical capacity. Do you see them able to flourish? Or are they where they’re going to be for the next decade?

JS: Well, I think kind of key to that, Hugh, is the Iraqi government getting around to passing legislation, Article 140, that has to do with the regulation and the investment of external sources into the Iraqi oil infrastructure. And I think once that legislation gets passed, and they are able to get external investment into their oil businesses, then I think that the infrastructure will be significantly enhanced, and I think the oil production has the potential for going up.

HH: Do you think the international business community that’s interested in oil is willing to invest in Iraq? Is the security situation stable enough that that capital will come in, General?

JS: I think that the security situation will continue to improve, and as it continues to improve, and the legislation gets passed, I do believe that the international community will invest in the oil capabilities here in Iraq.

In short the situation is improving. It has improved significantly since the surge began, and as it continues, it will give the people the time to fix the remaining problems. The general, just like General Petreus, didn't BS about this interview. He was upfront and forthright, and it was important that he say the things he did say. This wasn't "Orwellian political speak." This was a sincere, informal report that was given about the situation on the ground, and how the surge was progressing. I insist that if readers missed this interview, you can either read it here, or or listen to it hear when it's posted.

Publius II


UPDATE: Welcome Hugh Hewitt readers. Please feel free to poke around if leave a comment if you'd like!

Publius II

3 Comments:

Blogger Rovin said...

JS: No, we see that inside the Iraqi Army, they’re Iraqis first, and that there is very little evidence of sectarianism in those formations.

Sounds like some Americans could take a lesson from the Iraqis when it comes to being united for a sustainable victory.

I liked the part you mentioned about Rummy's Army. It may take a few decades for the historians to get it right and show how much BS the MSM and the anti-war left contributed to the extention of this war.

August 29, 2007 at 5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing the interview. It's refreshing after listening to the negative politicians. Writer

August 29, 2007 at 11:40 PM  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

One of the things that we have not understood nor appreciated is the time it takes to create an army that supports the Nation and will remain under civilian control. The US, itself, had problems rebuilding and restructuring itself after the removal of the draft and took nearly a decade to change over and become a new and effective fighting force. The ability to respond between the mid-1970's and the Gulf War was limited to superpower opposition, and a handful of small operations.

The Western tradition of the armed forces is not present in Arab Armies or, generally, in the Middle East, as described by de Atkine in Why Arab Armies Lose Wars. The metric derived from that and the US are: training as you fight and a reliable non-abusive NCO Corps. The US with its history and having the War Colleges established was able to maintain its traditions from pre-draft eras and re-instate them and that still would take over a decade to properly scale and support the all-volunteer force. Iraq has no history of such, so standing up this concept there is a huge task and will not be fully completed for at least 20 years as reliable officers get promoted based on merit and effectiveness, not on political alignment.

On the police side this is doubly true, and the major obstacles beyond getting a police force that is no more corrupt than, say, pre-Katrina New Orleans or Detroit is a monumental task given the existing culture there. When efficient 'internal affairs' units stand up to weed through the police, we will know that something has dramatically altered in the mind-set of those joining the police.

As a side-note on foreign investment, with the findings of reservoirs of oil in the western provinces of Iraq that now push it up into the #3 or 4 position for reserves globally, has come Japan and India seeking to invest in new exploration and increasing capacity from Iraq. They are doing that because of Iran's oil problem in re-investing in infrastructure and even maintaining existing capacity. With increased reserves in Iraq the opportunity to add a cushion in during the next 5-10 years to maintain supply levels is critical to each of those Nations.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the 'bottom-up' approach of local effective and accountable government getting things under control and then asking National government: what's your problem? No one ever said democracy was clean, efficient or fast... actually its operations are directly the opposite of that, being messy, slow and full of compromises. It is when it gets to be clean, efficient and fast that one needs to worry, deeply.

August 30, 2007 at 5:08 AM  

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