‘It Boils Down to Trust’
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 10:06 am
<div>One of the signature achievements of the surge, according to General David Petraeus and the White House, has been the creation of so-called "Concerned Local Citizens" groups—that is, bands of tribal fighters, mostly Sunni and including many former insurgents, who have agreed to take U.S. cash (and in some cases weaponry) if they pledge to fight al-Qaeda. The groups, also known as Awakening Councils, currently stand at 80,000 fighters, 80 percent of which are Sunni. They’re outside the chain of command of the regular Iraqi security forces. And the U.S. military, for months, has <a id="ds82" title="relied" href="http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/0135731D-D628-4A85-887B-32ABAB700DBF.htm">relied</a> on the councils for <a id="y0h5" title="information" href="http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=47783">information</a>, including targeting information, about <a id="vf8t" title="who the U.S. should go after" href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-usiraq14jan14,0,4332656,full.story?coll=la-home-world">who the U.S. should go after</a> in the name of fighting al-Qaeda. </div>
<div>But many of these groups consist of former insurgents. Many have an agenda that isn’t the U.S.’s. How does the U.S. really know that these groups are truly targeting al-Qaeda, instead of manipulating the U.S. military?</div>
<div>According to Rear Admiral Greg Smith, a spokesman for the U.S. military command in Iraq, it’s simple. Trust.</div>
<div>"The sense is, as we partner with tribal chiefs, the chief knows who’s working for him," Smith said when I asked him about the reliability of these bands on a blogger conference call this morning. "You’ve got to put some trust and confidence in these people." That trust, he said, isn’t built overnight, and the U.S. will have a "relationship" with a tribal leader before committing resources to him or including him in a program. </div>
<div>But is that <i>all</i> it amounts to? Trust?</div>
<div>"It boils down to trust," Smith confirmed. "And over time, you can earn it or lose it." In response to a follow-up from <a id="wv.k" title="Cogitamus’s" href="http://www.cogitamusblog.com/">Cogitamus’s</a> Nicholas Beaudrot, Smith reminded that in Diyala Province, Colonel David Sutherland, commander of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, had to fire and even arrest some <span class="caps"><span class="caps"><span class="caps">CLC</span></span></span> members. (<a id="a24p" title="Sutherland confirmed that to me in an October conference call" href="http://www.defenselink.mil/dodcmsshare/BloggerAssets/2007-10/1012suth.pdf">Sutherland confirmed that to me in an October conference call</a>.) He meant that as a defense of the U.S. military’s vetting process, but it also gives a sense of the trustworthiness of these so-called allies. </div>
<div>The U.S. has seen this movie before—in fact, literally. In <a id="c8z9" s="" wilson="" charlie="" title="" href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0472062/">"Charlie Wilson’s War,"</a> there’s a poignant scene in which a Congressman played by Ned Beatty travels to Afghanistan and pledges to the Afghan <i>mujahideen</i> that they’ll have the U.S.’s support, even screaming "Allahu Akbar!" along with the cheering crowd. The audience understands that many of those same mujahideen, given 15 years, became the Taliban. Instead of learning from that experience, in Iraq, the system for ensuring that we’re not handing cash to the next Mullah Omar—or even the next Osama bin Laden—is nothing more than a tribal chief convincing a U.S. lieutenant colonel to trust him. </div>
No comments yet.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.