The War You're Not Reading About

By John McCain

The Washington Post

April 8, 2007

"I just returned from my fifth visit to Iraq since 2003 --and my first since Gen. David Petraeus's new strategy has started taking effect. For the first time, our delegation was able to drive, not use helicopters, from the airport to downtown Baghdad. For the first time, we met with Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province who are working with American and Iraqi forces to combat al-Qaeda. For the first time, we visited Iraqi and American forces deployed in a joint security station in Baghdad -- an integral part of the new strategy. We held a news conference to discuss what we saw: positive signs, under reported in the United States, that are reason for cautious optimism."

"I observed that our delegation "stopped at a local market, where we spent well over an hour, shopping and talking with the local people, getting their views and ideas about different issues of the day."Markets in Baghdad have faced devastating terrorist attacks. A car bombing at Shorja in February, for example, killed 137 people. Today the market still faces occasional sniper attacks, but it is safer than it used to be. One innovation of the new strategy is closing markets to vehicles, thereby precluding car bombs that kill so many and garner so much media attention. Petraeus understandably wanted us to see this development."

"I went to Iraq to gain a firsthand view of the progress in this difficult war, not to celebrate any victories. No one has been more critical of sunny progress reports that defied realities in Iraq. In 2003, after my first visit, I argued for more troops to provide the security necessary for political development. I disagreed with statements characterizing the insurgency as a "few dead-enders" or being in its "lastthroes." I repeatedly criticized the previous search-and-destroy strategy and argued for a counter insurgency approach: separating the reconcilable population from the irreconcilable and creating enough security to facilitate the political and economic solutions that are the only way to defeat insurgents. This is exactly the course that Petraeus and the brave men and women of the American military are pursuing."

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