The war on terror, Mullen said, “will likely take our troops to places we do not now foresee and will demand of them skills they may not yet possess.”His candor was welcome, despite the tone of his assessment.
Mullen was nothing if not candid. He agreed with Levin that political progress in Iraq is lagging.Apparently, he was also critical of the administration.
He was asked what he thought were the most significant mistakes the U.S. has made to date in Iraq. Mullen spelled out just about every criticism ever leveled against the administration’s war. The U.S.:
• Did not fully integrate all elements of U.S. national power in Iraq.
• Focused most attention on the Iraqi national power structures, with limited engagement of the tribal and local power structures.
• Did not establish an early and significant dialogue with neighboring countries, adding to the complex security environment a problematic border situation.
• Disbanded the entire Iraqi army, a potentially valuable asset for security, reconstruction and provision of services to the Iraqi people, providing a recruiting pool for extremist groups.
• Pursued a de-Ba’athification process that proved more divisive than helpful, created a lingering vacuum in governmental capability that still lingers and exacerbated sectarian tensions.
• Attempted to transition to stability operations with an insufficient backup force.
• Failed to communicate with and convince Iraqis and the regional audience of intended U.S. goals.
When asked how the troops "can continue fighting hard when they see or hear of repeated political failings on the Iraqi government side", Mullen replied,
“They believe in their mission,” Cartwright said. ... At the same time, he said, “There comes a point at which they’re going to look at that and say, ‘How much longer and for what prize?’ if progress isn't seen.”
I think most of us came to that point years ago.