Thursday, December 01, 2005

Tal Afar: A far cry different from September to November

Yesterday President Bush used the battle of Tal Afar to illustrate progress in Iraq. He claimed Iraqi forces took the lead in that fight.
That is being disputed on several fronts.....
  • Michael Ware from Time magazine was interviewed last night by Anderson Cooper and stated he was in Tal Afar from start to finish. He strongly disagreed with Bush's claim that the Iraqi's lead the fight. (no transcript yet but will post when available.)
  • From the NYT....."The Iraqi forces "did O.K.," said the officer, who would not agree to be cited by name in seeming to contradict the president. "But they would have never pulled off the Tal Afar mission without the logistics support we gave them."
But then there is contradiction from Bush himself. This is what he said yesterday about Tal Afar...
Yet in most situations, the Iraqi role was limited to protecting the flanks of coalition forces, and securing ground that had already been cleared by our troops. This year in TAL Afar, it was a very different story.
The assault was primarily led by Iraqi security forces -- 11 Iraqi battalions, backed by five coalition battalions providing support.

But this is what he said on September 28 after a briefing from Generals Abizaid and Casey....

See, it used to be after we cleared the terrorists out of a city, there wasn't enough qualified Iraqi troops to maintain control--so when we left to conduct other missions, the terrorists would move back in. Now, the increasing number of more capable Iraqi troops has allowed us to better hold on to the cities we have taken from the terrorists.


We saw such success in the country's northwest region, where Iraqi and coalition forces recently targeted an area that was one of the main routes that foreign terrorists use to enter Iraq from Syria. During the operations in the key town of Tal Afar, Iraqi security forces outnumbered coalition forces for the first time in a major offensive operation. General Casey brought us up to date on that operation. Because of our joint efforts, hundreds of terrorists have been killed or captured or flushed, which makes it more difficult for the foreign terrorists to enter Iraq through the northwest route. As part of General Casey's strategy, Iraqi forces remain in Tal Afar to ensure that the terrorists are not allowed to return and regroup.

So in September it was at best a joint effort of clearing the city of Tal Afar and the progress was the large number of Iraqis now able to maintain control afterwards.
But in November progress is that the Iraqis primarily led the attack.

How can progress change so in Bush's mind in 2 short months?
In September Bush's approval was around 45%
In November Bush's approval rating about 37%

And not to forget in November there was Murtha

Update: Think Progress has a post on Michael Ware's contradiction of Bush's assessment of Tal Afar.

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