By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2012 – It’s still too early to tell whether the U.S. effort in Iraq has created an American ally, the commander of U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army said here yesterday.
Lt. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, who served many tours in Iraq, told the Defense Writers Group that it took years for a democratic government to emerge in West Germany following World War II, and he expects many of the same difficulties happening with Iraq.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in Iraq,” the general said. “I’m hopeful for increasing positive signs.”
The Iraqi government still is fighting a complex insurgency in a very tough environment, the general noted. “My friends in Iraq … are all very hopeful,” he said, “but they also understand the challenges they are encountering.”
The most encouraging step to date in Iraq is the potential for the rule of law to develop, Hertling said.
“[Iraqi] security forces are competent, but still feeling their way,” he said. “Their politicians are increasingly becoming effective in understanding the representative process, but it certainly can’t be compared to our government, or even our government 10 years after the Revolutionary War.”
Iraq will continue to have struggles in three main areas, the general said: security forces, rule of law and the primacy of political control. “They are still struggling, and it pains me to watch it,” he added.
How Iraq does in the future is something that will haunt U.S. veterans of the Iraq war, the general said. “There was a lot of blood and sweat and tears and hard work put into that country by American soldiers,” he said. He noted that as U.S. troops leave bases in Germany they have been in since 1945, many Germans have come to thank them for what they and their predecessors did to save the country.
The current generation worked hard in Iraq, and is not feeling particularly appreciated, Hertling said. “That’s unfortunate,” he added. “It’s something that all of our veterans from Iraq, and eventually our veterans from Afghanistan, will struggle with. They worked hard, they fought hard, and they did what they were trying to do to establish workable solutions in those two countries.”