US Scholars See Qualified Success for US Iraq Surge

Here’s something you won’t hear from the Democrats and main stream press.

Two prominent US political scholars just back from Iraq said Monday the US troop surge strategy was making strides in some areas, but warned the Iraqi government was making “zero” progress.

The findings by independent Brookings Institution analysts Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, who have recently criticized White House strategy, furthered enflamed the heated political debate in Washington over Iraq.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives is due this week to hold more symbolic votes on bringing US troops home, in the latest of a string of so-far unsuccessful attempts to dictate President George W. Bush’s war strategy.

Pollack and O’Hanlon returned from eight days of meetings with US generals, diplomats and Iraqis saying they were more hopeful than they had expected.

They noted progress in the US battle against Al-Qaeda in Iraq in western Al-Anbar province, and said there had been impressive stabilization in the northern cities of Tal-Afar and Mosul.

But they warned that southern Iraq and the city of Basra were like the “Wild West,” pummeled by violence, and that security in the capital was uneven, with some neighborhoods returning to normal and others like a “war-zone.”

“This is the first trip I have taken to Iraq that I actually came back more hopeful than I went over, (but) again that is a more qualified hopefulness,” Pollack told a small group of reporters.

“We saw considerably greater progress on the security side than I would have expected,” Pollack said, adding that some economic and political strides were evident at local levels.

But he warned he saw none of the critical, top-down political momentum from the Iraqi central government that US policy is designed to promote, describing it as “a complete mess.”

“Iraqi high-level politics remains completely log-jammed, we saw zero evidence of progress there,” Pollack said.

O’Hanlon said he was impressed by progress of US troops in fighting Al-Qaeda in Iraq after a tie-up between US forces and tribal sheikhs in Anbar.

But he warned the strategy to surge nearly 30,000 extra troops into Iraq, may simply be keeping the lid on other violence.

“The civil strife is something that we have more suppressed than solved,” he said, but added he would favor following the surge strategy for a few more months given new signs of momentum.

Pollack also cautioned some progress appeared to depend on the continued presence of US troops, the subject of a furious battle between Democrats in Congress, who want to bring most of the 159,000 soldiers home, and the White House, which rejects withdrawal timelines.

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