Coalition's Deputy Commander in Iraq Shares Initial Impressions
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 12, 2006 With two months of duty in Iraq under his belt, the British deputy commander of Multinational Force Iraq said today he's struck by the scope of the mission, the importance of the non-military as well as military contributions to success and the caliber of the U.S. forces deployed there.
Lt. Gen. Robert Fry of the British Royal Marines told Pentagon reporters by satellite today he's been amazed by the scale of the enterprise under way in Iraq on the political, security and economic fronts.
"We are actually trying to transform a whole society," said Fry, who wears two hats as deputy to U.S. Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, and as the senior British representative in Iraq.
Fry noted Iraq's shift from a dictatorship to a plural democracy and its formation of security forces that unify rather than repress the country. At the same time, Iraq is moving from "an entirely moribund state socialist economic system" to a market economy, which Fry called "a huge undertaking."
"And of course that's all set against the backdrop of a complicated insurgency and a complicated post-conflict situation," he said. Nothing in the British military's experience in counterinsurgency and post-conflict operations "in any way prepared us for the scale of what we're doing here," Fry told reporters.
Like many U.S. and DoD leaders, Fry emphasized that military force alone can't bring about success in Iraq. "All we can do is hold the ring while politics and economics - the things that change people's lives - are brought into play," he said.
"I see this as a long game, &and what I look for here is decisive political intervention," he said, adding that he expects new developments when Iraq's full-term government soon stands up. "And it is that point that I & expect to begin to see real change driven through Iraqi society," he said. "Our function in the meantime is to do no more than enable that," he said.
Fry noted the different traditions between the British and U.S. militaries. "You tend to fight great wars. We tend to fight small wars," he said. "And even when we're fighting the same war, those privities tend to come out."
Two impressions Fry said strike him most overwhelmingly are the U.S. force's commitment and the "clarity of vision" that's communicated from the top through the ranks. "You should be extremely proud of the way in which your nation is represented in Iraq at the present time," he told reporters.
He praised the "absolutely shining sense of purpose and commitment," he's observed among the U.S. troops. "They know precisely why they're here, and they're doing their job with the utmost determination," he said.
Fry said he's also impressed that the commander's intent in Iraq is communicated through all levels. "When General Casey has a policy in mind in the way in which he wants to conduct the campaign, that is conducted very efficiently down to the lowest level," he said. "And simply as a military practitioner, I find that extremely admirable."