I was able to get a copy of Michael Yon’s book “Moment of Truth In Iraq” (available at Amazon, see also Yon’s reader comments). I highly recommend the book for anyone looking for an easy to read summary of the war (post invasion) from the perspective of the front lines. Yon notes our failures to conduct effective operations and strategies to avoid destabilizing effects throwing the overall action into danger as well as critical failures of al Qaeda which gave us the second chance we are capitalizing on now. Yon details how we, through counter-insurgency and General Petraeus, are taking advantage of this chance. We are seeing some of the fruits of this change in strategy.
Yon gives a warning that this isn’t over yet, based on how we act as a nation, we can stifle the progress and be witnesses to a bloodbath. Most notably, Yon believes (at the time of writing) that we should increase troop numbers to effectively conduct counter-insurgency in the remaining areas.
Finally, Yon also gives a strong warning that Afghanistan needs to be addressed ASAP as he feels we are loosing. Unfortunately, Michael Yon doesn’t go into any detail regarding how or why he believes we are loosing in Afghanistan. That is the only criticism I have of the book – if you bring up the issue, make the argument, Michael doesn’t. The reader is left guessing (likely, Yon is also referring to counter-insurgency operations here too). With General Petraeus’ promotion to also overseeing Afghanistan operations, counter-insurgency may well be what Yon is referring to but without any specifics, that is the only guess I have for his opinion.
On a personal side, Michael Yon mentions how well the 101st Airborne (under General Petraeus’ leadership) performed in Mosul after the invasion,specifically relating to strategies aimed at preventing insurgency. I remember sending some requested supplies to the 101st for them to use in a joint humanitarian project at that time, it was nice to know that I was a part (albeit tiny) of making a difference.
Anyway, I mentioned that there has been a bunch of progress. To date, we’ve seen the Anbar Awakening and the Diyala Awakening where former insurgents came to us and we jointly hammered al Qaeda. We have also seen the Iraqi forces become stronger and more competent and seen Basra and Sadr City battles handled with Iraqi forces in the lead (and Maliki taking a much stronger leadership role) and Moqtada al Sadr effectively give up in both places (not to mention Maliki telling Iran to quit meddling). One of the best signs is also the return of the Sunnis to the government and the greater political competency by local leaders (also discussed in Yon’s book) after some mentoring.
With all this positive progress, we must remember that Mosul (al Qaeda is running to it) must still be settled and now is not the time to say ‘good enough’ and leave. In any battle or war there are many (probably countless) critical junctures. This is another one. Let us not fail the Iraqis and keep our thoughts, as well, to Afghanistan.
Note on Afghanistan: In responding to a comment, I remembered Yon had highlighted an article written by a British MP named Adam Holloway. The article may well be what Yon has in mind when he discusses Afghanistan: To bring peace to the Afghans, talk to the Taleban
UPDATE: Speaking of Mosul…