Iraqis unready to take over

It was the New York Times through straightforward reporting, who first revealed the facts that “mission accomplished” in Iraq was the hollowest of claims. And it’s the NY Times again that casts serious doubt on the permanent effect of General Petraeus’s surge. Tomorrow (Tuesday) US troops hand over most combat duties to the Iraqis. And by the end of 2011, the Americans are due to have pulled out altogether. Rod Nordland gave a preview of his report on the Today programme. (07.30 slot). The report itself is remorselessly direct, unlike the reams of hopeful propaganda that has emerged from the Bush and Obama administrations alike. Nothing like a good reporter, guys, to cut through all the crap. “Were General Fadhil’s counterterrorism soldiers, among the country’s most elite, ready to take over from the Americans after they withdraw from all Iraqi cities and towns?

We need at least 10 to 20 years with the American Special Forces to get to that level,” he replied in Arabic, or so a United States military interpreter said.

At that, Lt. Col. Marshal Bridges of the Special Forces stepped in, bristling. “That’s not what he meant,” said the colonel, who does not speak Arabic. “Sometimes things get lost in translation. I’ve worked with him for the last 10 months so I know exactly what he meant. What he meant was his forces are ready now but he would like us to stay another 10 to 20 years.”

Were General Fadhil’s counterterrorism soldiers, among the country’s most elite, ready to take over from the Americans after they withdraw from all Iraqi cities and towns?

“We need at least 10 to 20 years with the American Special Forces to get to that level,” he replied in Arabic, or so a United States military interpreter said. At that, Lt. Col. Marshal Bridges of the Special Forces stepped in, bristling. “That’s not what he meant,” said the colonel, who does not speak Arabic. “Sometimes things get lost in translation. I’ve worked with him for the last 10 months so I know exactly what he meant. What he meant was his forces are ready now but he would like us to stay another 10 to 20 years.”

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London