Amid the extensive discussions of Iraq and the "surge" on the presidential campaign trail, Gen. David Petraeus this week took to the stage at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention and discussed potential "storm clouds" he says have the potential to reverse the progress made recently in Iraq.
He pointed to the challenge of integrating the Sons of Iraq, militia groups recruited by the United States, into the Iraqi Security Forces. He said 50,000 had been integrated so far, while there are close to 100,000 total. (Transcript here.)
Other concerns involve whether al Qaeda will reignite sectarian violence or if efforts by "al Qaeda and Sunni extremists to return to areas that they once controlled" will succeed.
Petraeus said there could be violence during provincial elections, which are scheduled for the end of January, and disagreement over provincial power and region formation. The return of displaced families could fuel various ethnic disputes, especially in Kirkuk, he said.
"So, many challenges. And the reasons that Gen. Odierno and I, and Amb. Crocker and others have cautioned, we think, responsibly, about the possibility of fragility and reversal of some of this progress," said Petraeus. (Video here.)
Petraeus also offered up an interesting take on a key battle in Iraq last year. He laid out how several different systems were used together to give the Army an absolute asymmetric advantage, listing the assets that Col. John Hort, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, had at his disposal 24 hours a day:
Two predator unmanned aerial vehicles, three Shadow, three other lower-level systems -- unmanned aerial vehicles, three teams of two Apaches each. He had counter-fire radars ringing the city that would tell us where they shot at us from. We had guided-missile launch rocket systems primed and ready to launch if we did detect the enemy earlier to put a strike right into the center of Sadr City and kill the group of individuals who were hiding right across in a hospital without breaking a window in that hospital. He had other assets supporting him -- intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, other governmental agencies, human intelligence operatives . . . and all these other systems -- Global Hawk, ((Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System)), moving target indicators, EP-3s. He had blimps with optics. He had towers with optics. All of this focus, in and support of elements that included tanks, Bradleys, Strykers, snipers and all of that pulled together under one brigade commander over the course of several weeks.
"No other military in the world could devote that level of assets to one theater, let alone one brigade," he added.
-- Kate Brannen