McCain Defends Anbar-Before-Surge Scenario

"Yesterday," a reporter asked McCain, "you suggested that the surge in Iraq predated the Anbar rebellion, and actually the Anbar rebellion came a couple of months previously. Did you misspeak, or did you have something else in mind?"

McCain said that he was referring to the successful counterinsurgency strategy in the Anbar -- the co-option of the Sunni sheiks -- which provided a model for troops who later surged into the country.

“First of all, a surge is really a counter-insurgency strategy," McCain said.

I'll separate that, because McCain says it often. Most of us equate the surge with troop levels, but for McCain, it has always been about a strategy; to executive the strategy, more troops were needed.

Colonel McFarland, in Anbar province, McCain said, "had already initiated that strategy in Ramadi by going in and clearing and holding in certain places. That is a counter-insurgency. And he told me at that time that he believed that that strategy, which is quote the surge, part of the surge, would be, would be, successful. So then, of course, it was very clear that we needed additional troops in order to carry out this insurgency. Prior to that -- counter insurgency. Prior to that they had been going into places, killing people or not killing people, and then withdrawing. And the new counter-insurgency, the surge, entailed going in and clearing and holding, which Colonel McFarland had already started doing. And then of course, later on, there were additional troops, and General Petraeus said that the surge would not have worked, and the Anbar Awakening would not have taken place, successfully, if they hadn’t had an increase in the number of troops."

"So I’m not sure frankly that people really understand that a surge is part of counter-insurgency strategy which means going in, clearing, holding, building a better life, providing services to the people. And then clearly a part of that, an important part of it, was additional troops to help insure the safety of the sheiks, to gain control of Ramadi, which was a very bloody fight, and then the surge would continue to succeed as a counter-insurgency.’’