Middle East

Viewpoint: Iraq can handle own security

David Kilcullen at a US Senate hearing, 27 July
Image caption David Kilcullen is an author and a consultant on counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism

The deadly bomb attack on a Baghdad army recruiting centre has put new pressure on the Obama administration to postpone its combat troop withdrawal. David Kilcullen, a former adviser on US counter-insurgency in Iraq, argues that Iraqi government forces are ready to handle insurgents themselves. He was speaking to BBC World Service:

The insurgency has not gone away, but we have reduced it to the point where the locals can handle it. Right now I think there is no reason to postpone the draw-down.

Is the power vacuum an important factor? Well, the last time there was a very substantial gap in government in Iraq was in 2006 and, in fact, it took as long then as it has taken so far now - about five and a half months - for the government of Nouri Maliki to be formed after the elections.

But that was an extremely different situation. The level of violence today is probably about 99.5% lower. More importantly, the Sunni community are fully participating in this round of electoral politics.

In any long drawn-out counter-insurgency, there is the risk of a military coup, because you tend to end up with a very well-resourced, well-trained, competent group of military commanders who have had a lot of foreign attention and assistance, and a group of politicians who may not necessarily come up to the same standard, and people tend to look towards the military for leadership.

That is not always a healthy thing so a coup risk is a constant thing we need to worry about. But I do not think that is very likely in the short term.

I think the chances of al-Qaeda in Iraq taking over are extremely slim.

They are as weak as they have ever been. It is probably even not legitimate to call it an insurgency anymore.

Obviously, the bombing was a tragic and horrific attack, 59 people were killed, but two years ago we were looking at that kind of attack every two or three days.

Even a year ago, we saw that level of attack, or even larger, every month or couple of weeks.

You still have thousands upon thousands of people queuing up to fight alongside the government and be members of the police and military, so we are not looking at a state collapse any time soon.

What we are looking at is a state that has problems.

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