When conditions improved dramatically in al-Anbar, defeatists in the U.S, talked up the alleged collapse of Basra into chaos. (Here’s one such report, from the WaPo.) I asked Mahor General Simmons, Deputy Commander General of Multinational Forces for Support, about the reports. He replied:
They are not accurate, and that is a fabrication at best. This was a planned turnover of the Palace and the PJCC to Iraqi control, to the Iraqi legitimate government forces. It was done to standard with, and to well-trained, well-equipped Iraqi Security Forces. There were some peaceful demonstrations that were celebratory in nature, but at no time was any Coalition forces threatened, and the local Iraqi officials under General Mohan, kept a good handle on the situation in Basra.
We’ll soon have excellent reporting from Basra as Michael Yon is headed that way. I spoke with Yon yesterday. Here’s the beginning of the interview, in which he discusses running into the remarkable Command Sergeant Major James Pippin, and then his travel plans:
HH: Are you headed back into Iraq tonight?
MY: Yes. I’m in Kuwait right now, should be in Iraq probably in the next ten hours or so, and I’ll stay for another long haul. First, I’ll go with the British down in Basra, stay with them for a month. Then I’ll go with the United States Air Force, and then I’m going to head back with an Infantry unit. You know, yesterday, or actually today when I got here almost 24 hours ago, one of the people I know who got shot in Mosul just four months ago was actually returning to duty, Command Sergeant Major James Pippen, he got shot in the tibia, shattered his tibia only four months ago, he’s already returning to Mosul. It’s amazing.
HH: That is amazing. Which branch of the service is he with, Michael?
MY: He’s in the Army. He’s a command sergeant major of an Infantry battalion up in Mosul, and I just saw him, we were standing in line both to get on an airplane, or to register for it, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. You know, he’d just been shot and he’s already back.
HH: That’s pretty amazing. Now tell me, I’m glad you’re going to Basra, because we’ve heard so many stories out of Basra about whether or not it’s all gone to hell in a hand basket after the withdrawal of the British back from a forward deployment. What are you hearing prior to your deployment there?
MY: I don’t think those reports are accurate. You know, I was just over in London, and also, I’ve been with the British before in Basra earlier this year, and the reality, it’s probably time for them to draw down their forces. I think they’re doing the prudent thing. They’ve got a huge commitment in Afghanistan, and their army is a lot smaller than ours is. And the problems in Basra are not like the problems in other places. I don’t see it as a…it’s not like a crack in the egg. In fact, I hate to make predictions too far in advance, but I would not doubt that we would see a very precipitous drop in violence over the next few months throughout Iraq as more and more people come to the table. You know, out in Diyala Province, 20 of the 25 major tribes just signed an agreement to work with the Coalition and the Iraqi Army, so that’s tremendous. I mean, we see people in Nineveh Province starting to rise up against al Qaeda. Everybody is coming to the realization, many people are coming to the realization that it’s time for a change. You know, we made some mistakes early on, and we learned from them. Our own military has just morphed in the last couple of years, and they work very well with most of the Iraqis now, and the Iraqis have learned how to work with us. Hugh, I just wouldn’t doubt it to see that in the future, Iraq is actually going to be a good ally of the United States.
The transcript is here. This must be like the old days of journalism –waiting for a reporter you trust to file a story you’ll be able to believe.
There are others whose dispatches can be trusted, but many who are invested in the war against the war, whose reports are not so trustworthy. Yon’s one of the great ones, and another, The New York Times’ John Burns will be my guest today as well.
Had you heard about the Diyala agreement? Or just about Blackwater?
Here’s a picture of Command Segreant Major Pippin, btw.