I remarked in a post a couple of days ago that General Odierno hadn't gotten Karl Rove's memo about repeating the narrative that Iraq is "all about Al Qaeda". Odierno let slip that 73% of attacks on US forces were being conducted by Shiite militias, not Al Qaeda.
Now, Washington Post reporter Sudarsan Raghavan has been out in the field talking to the troops and it's clear they didn't get the memo either:
On the unruly outer fringes of the Sunni area south of Baghdad known as the Triangle of Death, American soldiers navigate more than a dozen battle zones straddling the fault lines of sect and tribe. Al-Qaeda in Iraq -- identified by President Bush and his generals as the main U.S. enemy -- is just one of myriad armed groups competing here for influence and authority. This arid region nourished by the Euphrates River is a microcosm of the many often-overlapping conflicts that have erupted across the new Iraq.
"We're fighting in multiple directions," said Col. Michael Garrett, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) of the 25th Infantry Division.
I have been explaining the convoluted and byzantine nature of the battlefield in Iraq for some time now but the right-wing blogosphere still doesn't understand. Hopefully, they will listen to the troops:
Col. Michael Garrett: "We are in the middle of it.. I'm not fighting one sect or the other. I'm fighting both. And not only am I fighting both, but at certain points I have to put my forces in between the Sunni and Shia groups to protect the populace."
Maj. Rick Williams: "We are in the land of the blood feuds. It's very difficult to tell a tribal fight from a sectarian fight because interests are pretty mixed. You can't just put up a fence."
Col. Michael Garrett: "They (Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army) continue to target us, so we continue to target them."
Maj. Craig Whiteside: "Both sides stopped shooting at each other, and both opened up on our men" (describing what happened when his troops found themselves in the middle of a battle between Sunnis and Shiite partisans; the troops had to fight their way out).
Maj. Rick Williams: "Any group you work with can turn on you," (noting that even Iraqi police units have attacked U.S. troops).
Sgt. Josh Claeson: "We haven't done anything here. We'll go for 24 hours and we'll see nothing. Our basic mission here is to drive around and get blown up."
There you have it. Straight from the troops themselves. They are fighting a myriad of enemies and the Saudi jihadists (aka "Al Qaeda") are just one of them. They often find themselves caught in the crossfire of warring sectarian and tribal groups, and are forced to risk their lives to try and protect the civilians who are caught in the middle. They have no clearly defined mission, no coherent strategy from the military and civilian leadership (simply adding more troops isn't a strategy), no end game, and no exit strategy.
Sgt. Claeson harshly proclaimed that their only mission is to drive around and get blown up. Now is that any way to fight a war?
If you support the troops, you should be fighting to get them the hell out of Iraq.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!