Measuring Success In and Over Iraq

As US forces draw down from peak surge levels and violence dips, the role of airpower in keeping the peace is as important as ever, the top US airman in Iraq tells the Daily Report. During an Nov. 11 interview in his headquarters at Camp Victory, Baghdad, Maj. Gen. David Clary said capabilities like intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance assets and tactical airlift are supplanting kinetic strikes in aiding coalition and Iraqi forces to consolidate security gains and transform the new strategic environment into one where governance and economic progress can solidify. “Weapons dropped is probably not the best metric” at this stage, said Clary, who assumed his post in February as director of the Multi National Force-Iraq’s Air Component Coordination Element, serving as the point man for Air Forces Central’s efforts alongside MNF-I in the country. Instead, he said, “Tactical airlift and strategic airlift are tactical weapons in this fight.” As an example of this, he cited the airlift provided to Iraqi cabinet officials for travel to the outer provinces of the country to work with local leaders and tribes in contested areas so that the officials may cobble together agreements to spread stability and facilitate economic and institutional growth around the country. Clary said he is also is working to gradually transfer management of Iraqi civil airspace from the coalition to the Iraqis. Already the coalition has established a training pipeline for Iraqi air traffic controllers, and the Iraqi civil authorities are working with the UN to bring their infrastructure up to International Civil Aviation Organization compliance levels, Clary said. One hopeful metric, he added, is that the insurance rates for commercial air carriers operating in Iraq have been slashed in half in the past six months.