Michael Yon, an independent war correspondent in Iraq, makes a couple of interesting and important points:
I've done many missions in 2005 and 2007, in many places in Iraq, along with the Iraqi Army: please believe me when I say that, on the whole, the Iraqi Army is remarkably better in 2007 and far more effective than it was in 2005. By 2007, the Iraqis were doing most of the fighting. And . . . this is very important . . . they see our Army and Marines as serious allies, and in many cases as friends. Please let the potential implications of that sink in.
We now have a large number of American and British officers who can pick up a phone from Washington or London and call an Iraqi officer that he knows well-an Iraqi he has fought along side of-and talk. Same with untold numbers of Sheiks and government officials, most of whom do not deserve the caricatural disdain they get most often from pundits who have never set foot in Iraq. British and American forces have a personal relationship with Iraqi leaders of many stripes. The long-term intangible implications of the betrayal of that trust through the precipitous withdrawal of our troops could be enormous, because they would be the certain first casualties of renewed violence, and selling out the Iraqis who are making an honest-go would make the Bay of Pigs sell-out seem inconsequential. The United States and Great Britain would hang their heads in shame for a century.
Alternately, in an equation in which the outcome is a stable Iraq for which they (Iraqi Police and Army officials) are stewards, the potential benefits are equally enormous. Because if Iraq were to settle down, and then a decade passes and we look back and even our most severe critics cannot deny that Iraq is a better place, a generation of Iraq's most important leaders would have deep personal bonds with their counterparts in America and Great Britain. This could actually happen.
Throughout most of 2007, as I've watched General Petraeus' strategy being implemented, I have observed the impact his change in strategy was having on our soldiers, on Iraqi security forces, and most importantly, on Iraqi people including some who were formerly our avowed enemies. I have seen how our own military morphed into something much more agile, and I came to see how American commanders tended to be the most trusted voices in Iraq for many Iraqis.
To be sure, the "Anbar Awakening" and other signs of progress were underway before the massive strategy overhaul occurred, and nobody can track and trace all the factors involved in this fantastically complex war, but one thing was certain: the momentum was shifting in favor of a stable Iraq for the first time. The institutional knowledge reservoir was becoming vast, and success was touted and shared. It may have been true that Americans knew very little about Iraq before the invasion, but it was for certain that American commanders had now developed an intimate understanding of the goings-on. It can be said with confidence that as a group, no non-Iraqis know more about Iraq than the US military.
You can read his entire dispatch at the link.RLC