Friday, August 24, 2007

Congressman Boehner Weekly Column: Iraq Surge Strategy Shows Signs of Progress

Iraq Surge Strategy Shows Signs of Progress

Soon after Congress reconvenes from the August District Work Period, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq will deliver a report detailing the progress we’ve made under a new battle plan put into action this year.

Gen. David Petraeus, who assumed control of our troops in February, has implemented a “surge” that required an infusion of U.S. troops working with Iraqi Security Forces and our allies to methodically clear violence-plagued areas of Iraq of terrorists. Gen. Petraeus’ overall plan in Iraq includes a counter-insurgency strategy, which in part focuses on helping Iraqi towns rebuild after major combat operations.

We have two options in Iraq – success or failure. Failure would bring about disastrous consequences for our security, our international interests and our allies. Failure in Iraq would allow al Qaeda to emerge strong and establish terrorist safe havens, and it will give Iran unchecked ability to increase its support of terrorist groups.

Success in Iraq , however, will deny terrorists a safe haven not just in that country but throughout the Middle East , striking a significant blow to the efforts of Islamic extremists in a region that serves as a critical source of funding, recruits and support for global terrorist activities. Success in Iraq will mean a safer America for our children and grandchildren.

And we’re seeing success emerge. In a recent military operation, Iraqi Army Scouts planned and conducted simultaneous raids on multiple buildings and detained a suspected terrorist believed to be a key man in the exchange of smuggled money for weapons, explosives and recruits. And as Iraqi civilians see more and more progress on the ground, the number of tips they’re relaying to Coalition Forces are yielding greater results. One recent tip led U.S. soldiers and Iraqi police in Baghdad to two sites that contained materials to make bombs and other explosive devices.

Despite this progress, those who are invested in failure in Iraq will no doubt find an angle from which to criticize Gen. Petraeus’ report. But our troops are not in Iraq just to create a stable political environment – they are there to help the Iraqi people take control of their country and of their own lives. Coalition Forces are training Iraqi Security Forces, including local police, to defend their countrymen – that is very different from their mission under former dictator Saddam Hussein, who used the police and military to terrorize his own people. While progress in Iraq ’s national government has been slower than hoped for, grassroots reconciliation in provinces like Anbar and other Iraqi towns is encouraging. We all agree that more political progress is essential but pushing for a precipitous withdrawal when the momentum is ours is not just irrational, it is negligent.

I’m pleased to see that lawmakers who hold varying opinions of our purpose in Iraq recently noting that we’re seeing successes there. Freshmen Congressmen Brian Baird (D-WA), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Jerry McNerney (D-CA) commented on that progress after returning from Iraq where they saw for themselves how the surge is working.

“The success in Ramadi is not just because of bombs and bullets, but because the U.S. and Iraqi military and the Iraqi police are partnering with the tribal leadership and the religious leadership. … What they’re doing is respecting the people, giving the people some control over their own lives,” Ellison said. (Associated Press, Ellison Returns from Trip to Iraq , 7-30-07)

Rep. Baird: “One, I think we’re making real progress. Secondly, I think the consequences of pulling back precipitously would be potentially catastrophic for the Iraqi people themselves, to whom we have a tremendous responsibility … and in the long run chaotic for the region as a whole and for our own security.” (The Olympian, Baird sees need for longer U.S. role in Iraq , 8-17-07)

Sen. Dick Durbin, who has been a fierce critic of the war in Iraq , stated after a trip that, “the surge of American troops has led to military progress in Iraq .” Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Committee, noted that the surge is producing “measurable results.”

And the Cincinnati Enquirer earlier this month opined that, “…the war has taken a turn for the better, like a patient making a sudden recovery after years on life support.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, “Wait, Haul Down the White Flags – The Surge is Working,” 8-5-07)

There’s still a lot of work for us to in Iraq and in the region to ensure not only security there but our security here at home. The terrorists have taken note of the painful lessons of Vietnam , and their hope of victory in Iraq lay in us losing faith in ourselves and in our military. We cannot turn our backs on our troops, who have sacrificed so much, and on the Iraq people who, having tasted freedom will not rest until they are truly a free people.

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