In a feature article entitled “We Are Winning. We Haven’t Won.” in this week’s Weekly Standard, Max Boot elaborates on his assessment of the Surge based on his recent sojourn in Iraq. It turns out that he and Bing West, who published a condensed version of the longer article in Monday’s Los Angeles Times, traveled to Iraq “at the invitation of Gen. David Petraeus,” which may cast some additional light on his dismissive comment about Petraeus’ superior officer, CentCom chief Adm. William Fallon. Unfortunately, there is nothing in either the Times op-ed or the longer Weekly Standard piece that indicates why Fallon is “unimpressive.”
What is more interesting about the two articles is that, like Kagan, they emphasize that reducing U.S. forces below the pre-Surge level (which Boot says was 140,000, rather than the more commonly cited 130,000 or 135,000) carries unacceptable risks: “Petraeus has his hands full,” he writes with West. “His task will become more difficult if shortsighted officials in Washington [note that’s it’s officials — meaning the Pentagon — and not lawmakers] push for even more troops reductions later this year.” So the hawks’ line is clear: Bush should resist Congressional and Pentagon pressure to reduce troop levels below 140,000.
The other, perhaps more-important message conveyed by Boot and West fresh from his Petraeus-sponsored tour of Iraq is that Washington should ditch President Maliki if he does not prove more cooperative with U.S. strategy in achieving national reconciliation, and particularly in integrating the Sunni Concerned Local Citizens (CLCs) into Iraq’s official security forces. In ironic testimony to the political progress achieved by the nearly five-year occupation, the two authors note that “…Maliki wouldn’t last a day without coalition [U.S.] support.”
Meanwhile, Washington may be engineering regime change in the other country liberated by its “global war on terror” — Afghanistan — where it has become increasingly disillusioned with what it regards as the insularity, corruption, and flakiness of President Hamid Karzai, according to the latest issue of Newsweek. The magazine reports that U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, who presumably has dual citizenship, believes that he may be a good replacement.