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Bush Releases Iraq Victory Strategy

US President George W. Bush delivers remarks on the war in Iraq 30 November 2005 at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. In a maor speech Bush vowed to settle for nothing less than "complete victory" in Iraq, which he defined as a secure country free of "terrorists" who could threaten the United States. AFP photo by Paul J. Richards.

Washington (UPI) Nov 30, 2005
Victory in Iraq is a vital U.S. interest, says a new policy document, "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," published Wednesday by the White House.

But while it rejects proposals for a timetable for withdrawal, it holds out the prospect of early U.S. troop reductions, even while the United States remains committed to the stabilization and democratization of Iraq in the longer term.

"With resolve, victory will be achieved, although not by a date certain," the document says. "No war has ever been won on a timetable and neither will this one.

"But lack of a timetable does not mean our posture in Iraq (both military and civilian) will remain static over time. As conditions change, our posture will change," it says. "We expect, but cannot guarantee, that our force posture will change over the next year, as the political process advances and Iraqi security forces grow and gain experience.

"While our military presence may become less visible, it will remain lethal and decisive, able to confront the enemy wherever it may organize," the document says. "Our mission in Iraq is to win the war. Our troops will return home when that mission is complete."

Victory in Iraq is defined in three stages. In the short term, the document claims, "Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces."

In the medium term, "Iraq is in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security, with a fully constitutional government in place, and on its way to achieving its economic potential."

In the longer term, the strategy aims at building an Iraq that is "peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism."

"The fate of the greater Middle East -- which will have a profound and lasting impact on American security -- hangs in the balance. Failure is not an option," it says, in a clear challenge to the rising chorus of voices in the United States and abroad calling for a clear timetable for a withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces.

"Iraq would become a safe haven from which terrorists could plan attacks against America, American interests abroad, and our allies," the document warns. Without victory in Iraq, it says "Middle East reformers would never again fully trust American assurances of support for democracy and human rights in the region -- a historic opportunity lost. The resultant tribal and sectarian chaos would have major consequences for American security and interests in the region."

"Victory in Iraq is a Vital U.S. Interest," the document says. "Iraq is the central front in the global war on terror. Failure in Iraq will embolden terrorists and expand their reach; success in Iraq will deal them a decisive and crippling blow."

The strategy says that while the insurgency has developed sophisticated communications and military tactics, they can be defeated by "exploiting the differences" between the various insurgent factions.

"The enemy is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists, and terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al-Qaida. Distinct but integrated strategies are required to defeat each element," it says. "Each element shares a common short-term objective -- to intimidate, terrorize, and tear down -- but has separate and incompatible long-term goals. Exploiting these differences within the enemy is a key element of our strategy."

The Bush administration strategy, now spelled out clearly for the first time, says "We will help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq with a constitutional, representative government that respects civil rights and has security forces sufficient to maintain domestic order and keep Iraq from becoming a safe haven for terrorists."

"To achieve this end, we are pursuing an integrated strategy along three broad tracks, which together incorporate the efforts of the Iraqi government, the Coalition, cooperative countries in the region, the international community, and the United Nations," it goes on.

The political track involves working to forge a broadly supported national compact for democratic governance by helping the Iraqi government, while isolating enemy elements from those who can be won over to the political process by countering false propaganda and demonstrating to all Iraqis that they have a stake in a democratic Iraq.

It seeks also to engage those outside the political process and invite in those willing to turn away from violence through ever-expanding avenues of participation, and to build stable, pluralistic, and effective national institutions that can protect the interests of all Iraqis, and facilitate Iraq's full integration into the international community.

The security track involves carrying out a campaign to defeat the terrorists and neutralize the insurgency, developing Iraqi security forces, and helping the Iraqi government. It seeks to clear areas of enemy control by remaining on the offensive, killing and capturing enemy fighters and denying them safe-haven, and to hold areas freed from enemy influence by ensuring that they remain under the control of the Iraqi government with an adequate Iraqi security force presence. The key to this will be the success in building Iraqi security forces and the capacity of local institutions to deliver services, advance the rule of law, and nurture civil society.

The economic track involves setting the foundation for a sound and self-sustaining economy by helping the Iraqi government to restore Iraq's infrastructure to meet increasing demand and the needs of a growing economy and to reform Iraq's economy, which in the past has been shaped by war, dictatorship, and sanctions, so that it can be self-sustaining in the future. This means building the capacity of Iraqi institutions to maintain infrastructure, rejoin the international economic community, and improve the general welfare of all Iraqis.

"This strategy is integrated and its elements are mutually reinforcing," the document says. "Progress in each of the political, security, and economic tracks reinforces progress in the other tracks. For instance, as the political process has moved forward, terrorists have become more isolated, leading to more intelligence on security threats from Iraqi citizens, which has led to better security in previously violent areas, a more stable infrastructure, the prospect of economic progress, and expanding political participation."

"Victory will take time," the document warns, but insists that the strategy is working.

"Much has been accomplished in Iraq, including the removal of Saddam's tyranny, negotiation of an interim constitution, restoration of full sovereignty, holding of free national elections, formation of an elected government, drafting of a permanent constitution, ratification of that constitution, introduction of a sound currency, gradual restoration of neglected infrastructure, the ongoing training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, and the increasing capability of those forces to take on the terrorists and secure their nation."

"Many challenges remain," the document concludes. "Iraq is overcoming decades of a vicious tyranny, where governmental authority stemmed solely from fear, terror, and brutality. It is not realistic to expect a fully functioning democracy, able to defeat its enemies and peacefully reconcile generational grievances, to be in place less than three years after Saddam was finally removed from power."

related report
Analysis: Bush Wants To 'Vietnamize' Iraq
Washington (UPI) Nov 30 - President George W. Bush Wednesday unveiled a new strategy of neo-Vietnamization to win the Iraq war.

In a speech at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and in a 35-page National Security Council document announcing a new national strategy to win the war entitled "Victory in Iraq," the president focused more than ever before on building up the new Iraqi armed forces so that within the next year to two they could take much of the burden of the war off the hard-pressed backs of the 155,000-strong under-manned and badly stretched U.S. combat forces in Iraq.

The new strategy contained no surprises but a lot of unanswered questions. Bush, as expected, ruled out any total U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. He defined America's long-term goal in the California-sized nation of 25 million people with one of the largest oil reserves in the world as establishing the country as "peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism."

That goal is an exceptionally ambitious one, especially as even in the 36 years of Iraqi national independence before Saddam Hussein and his fellow Baathists established the second Baathist Republic in 1968, Iraq was never "peaceful, united, stable and secure."

The short-term goals defined in the document are in some part, but certainly not all, already being met. These are, that "Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building, democratic institutions and standing up security forces."

The security forces are already being established, but Pentagon testimony this summer acknowledged that as yet few of them are capable of reliably operating in intense combat situations on their own without massive U.S. support. Building them up to that level, the president acknowledged in his Annapolis speech, was now a major U.S. priority.

Pushed by the United States, political institutions are being built in Iraq and the first national elections under the recently approved constitution are still scheduled for Dec. 15. Over the past year the insurgents have repeatedly proven incapable of preventing such elections being held. Nor have they succeeded in deterring significant numbers of Iraqis in the majority Shiite community and the Kurdish community from participating in them.

However, U.S. military commanders have been very disappointed in the progress the Iraqi army has made this year in fighting the insurgents. Operation Lightning in May deployed an unprecedented 40,000 of them to try and clean up the capital Baghdad. The crackdown was unprecedented in its ambition and size: Thousands of suspects were arrested and many of them held as suspected terrorists.

Yet the operation did not even begin to dent insurgent capabilities either in Baghdad or around the country. On the contrary, in the months that followed it, as tracked and documented in UPI's weekly Iraq Benchmarks column, the rate at which Iraq security forces were being killed by the insurgents soared to record levels and the number of Multiple Fatality Bombings around the country by the Sunni Baathist and Islamist insurgents also soared to record levels.

In recent weeks, the number of total car bombings around the country has fallen, and the rate of casualties inflicted on the Iraqi forces has been steadily falling since July. But it is still running at more than 150 killed a month. And the insurgents' capacity to inflict casualties on U.S. troops does not appear to have diminished in the slightest. Although the rate at which U.S. troops were killed dropped slightly over the past two weeks, the rate at which they were being injured rose again and shows no sign of significantly falling over the long term.

The new National Strategy defines U.S. Middle Term goals in Iraq as placing Iraqi forces "in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security, with a fully constitutional government in place, and on its way to achieving its economic potential."

The constitutional government goals still appear to be on track. But even there, a huge question mark remains over whether the new government will be far more beholden to neighboring Iran than to the United States. Iraqi leaders now visit Tehran on a regular basis where they are warmly feted by the new extremist government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Even Deputy Iraqi Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, who remains a favorite of the White House and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, recently visited Tehran and received glowing testimonials in the official media there.

However, the central strategic issue in Iraq, as the president and his National Strategy both acknowledged, remains the middle term goal of building up the Iraqi armed forces so that they will be simultaneously effective and reliable in combating the insurgents.

Some respected U.S. analysts, like Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, believe this is still an achievable goal. Cordesman has documented real and impressive progress in building up Iraqi forces in recent months.

And James Fallows, in the November issue of The Atlantic magazine, in an article that was generally critical of U.S. failures to do more in building up the new Iraqi forces, also acknowledged that after U.S. Lt. Gen. David Petraeus took over responsibility for training them and when John Negroponte took over as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, many previously ignored needs and problems were finally energetically addressed and real progress was made.

However, the real issue may not be whether a numerically impressive and even tactically reliable Iraqi army is built up, but how reliable and loyal it will prove to be both to its own constitutional government and to its U.S. ally. And here, history and precedent are not on the Americans side.

The British Empire ran Iraq directly as a Mandate of the League of Nations for 14 years, after World War I until 1932, and painstakingly built up and trained the Iraqi army during that time. But within nine years of independence, this same army had rebelled against both the democratically elected government and the British interest in Iraq twice, in 1936 and 1941, successfully toppling the government in both cases.

On the second occasion, in 1941, the Iraqi army sought immediately to join Britain's mortal enemy, Nazi Germany, and was only preventing from doing so by a hastily organized British military invasion and re-conquest of the country launched, ironically enough, from Jerusalem in Palestine, which was then still under British control.

Eventually in 1958, the Iraqi Army succeeded in toppling the British-supported constitutional government and slaughtered the entire Hashemite royal family of Iraq. Both moves proved immensely popular among the Iraqi people at the time.

The new National Strategy, therefore, appears a welcome and, indeed necessary sharpening of strategic focus for the United States on what needs to be done in Iraq. But it looks unlikely to achieve its goal of cutting off support for the until-now overwhelmingly Sunni insurgency.

That is because the more the U.S. goal of pushing through the new constitution and establishing a democratically-elected Iraqi government is achieved, the more resentment has grown across the entire Sunni community -- 20 percent of the total Iraqi population -- and the stronger the insurgency has become.

Nor can the new National Strategy guarantee that the ambitious goal of building up the Iraqi army stand on its own two feet will work in the long term.

That strategy was applied 35 years ago in Vietnam when the United States built up the Armed Forces of (South) Vietnam, or ARVN, to be being able to maintain security in the country after U.S. troops were withdrawn and in the short term that strategy, in fact, worked well. But the ARVN could not defend itself or its state from a full-scale military invasion launched with overwhelming force in 1975 by North Vietnam.

Similarly, even if the new Iraqi army serving a predominantly Shiite governing majority proves able to crush the Sunni insurgency, it may prove unwilling or unable to defend itself and its government against an eventual invasion from neighboring fellow-Shiite Iran.

Nor does the new National Strategy address the worrying issue of the rise in power and popularity of Shiite militias in southern Iraq, especially the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr. A Shiite-controlled national army that may eagerly act against the Sunni insurgents may nevertheless prove either unable or unwilling, or both, to act in a similar manner against its co-religionists.

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Washington (UPI) Nov 30, 2005
Much attention was paid to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's wordsmithing Tuesday when at a Pentagon news conference he decided he would no longer use the term "insurgent" to describe enemy forces inside Iraq, as well as the fact Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace couldn't quite strip the word from his vocabulary on the fly.

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