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Iraq Surge Strategy Slammed

Anthony H. Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies points out that faced with the U.S. surge strategy in Baghdad, the Shiite militias had the option to "stand down, inevitably shifting the battle to the Sunni insurgents that are too ideological and exposed to adopt a similar strategy. The net result could be to make the U.S. and ISF fight for the Shiite side in Baghdad. This latter option seems to be becoming steadily more likely," he continued. A "key reality is that the U.S. really is no longer in control even of (its own) 'Plan A' (to win the war), the Iraqi government is," Cordesman wrote. "One of the lessons that both the Bush administration and its various U.S. opponents and critics may still have to learn is that at a given level of defeat, other actors control events," Cordesman concluded. "U.S. discussions of alternative plans and strategies may well be becoming largely irrelevant."
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Feb 22, 2007
One of America's most respected military analysts this week issued a devastating new critique of President Bush's surge strategy in Iraq, arguing that it is so full of holes it's no strategy at all. Anthony H. Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, published a new analysis Wednesday entitled "The British Defeat in the South and the Uncertain Bush 'Strategy' in Iraq."

"A meaningful U.S. strategy in Iraq cannot simply focus on winning in Baghdad and going on with efforts to fight the insurgents in the most troubled (provinces)," Cordesman wrote. "A meaningful U.S. strategy in Iraq has to combine all of the necessary means to achieve a clearly defined objective and it has to have an end game."

We have often before cited Cordesman's widely respected and exceptionally knowledgeable and frank analyses in these columns. But his latest assessment is noteworthy for being unusually outspoken and devastating even by his plain speaking standards.

"Things in Iraq may have deteriorated to the point where none of the 'least bad' options now available allow the U.S. to achieve (its) goals," Cordesman wrote. "From a perceptual viewpoint, 'victory' may already be impossible because most of the people in Iraq, the region, and Arab and Muslim worlds will probably view the U.S. effort as a failure and as a partial defeat even if the U.S. can leave Iraq as a relatively stable and secure state at some point in the future."

Cordesman, like UPI military affairs columnist William S. Lind, warned in his new study that current U.S. strategy in Baghdad is playing into the hands of the Shiite militia groups there by seeking to defeat their greatest enemies, the Sunni insurgents and their allied Sunni militias.

"If the Shiite militias in Baghdad continue to stand down, and U.S.-led operations continue to focus on local security and defeating the Sunnis, the end result of creating 'white spots' (of security) in Baghdad will be to solidify Shiite control over most of the city and province, segregate Sunnis, and push Sunnis into divided areas outside the city," he wrote.

Further, "Winning security control of the city (of Baghdad) and losing Iraq's 11 other major cities and countryside to Iraq's sectarian and ethnic factions is not victory (in any strategic sense) it is defeat," he warned.

"So far ... the U.S. has not shown that it has a clear plan for taking control of Baghdad with the U.S. and Iraqi resources it has available," Cordesman continued. U.S. policymakers, he charged, have "completely failed to set forth a strategy and meaningful operational plan for dealing with Iraq as a country even if it succeeds in Baghdad."

The Sunni insurgents, Cordesman warned, have several options to face and defeat the surge strategy, and "they may well reduce the odds of U.S. success to less than one in four."

The insurgents could seek to over-extend U.S. and Iraqi security forces "to their limit to cover all of the greater Baghdad area," Cordesman wrote. This strategy would force American troops and their allies "to cover more and more area, and either to drain other areas of U.S. and Iraqi forces or force the U.S. (forces) and ISF be too thin on the ground to cover the entire city (of Baghdad)."

The insurgents could then "strike where U.S. and Iraqi forces are weakest. The U.S. can win in seven out of 10 districts in Baghdad and still lose," he wrote.

"The insurgents and militias (could) strike at U.S. and ISF forces during the initial phase of U.S. advances, keep up the pace of combat for a while, and then disperse to other areas or go underground. They outwait the U.S.," he wrote.

"Alternatively, they carry out high-profile and well-planned bloody attacks on U.S. forces, and/or use bombings and atrocities in the areas that are 'secure,'" Cordesman wrote.

The pattern of Sunni insurgent violence in Baghdad since the surge strategy was announced in fact suggests that this is indeed, what the insurgents are doing.

Cordesman also pointed out that faced with the U.S. surge strategy in Baghdad, the Shiite militias had the option to "stand down, inevitably shifting the battle to the Sunni insurgents that are too ideological and exposed to adopt a similar strategy. The net result could be to make the U.S. and ISF fight for the Shiite side in Baghdad."

"This latter option seems to be becoming steadily more likely," he continued.

A "key reality is that the U.S. really is no longer in control even of (its own) 'Plan A' (to win the war), the Iraqi government is," Cordesman wrote.

"One of the lessons that both the Bush administration and its various U.S. opponents and critics may still have to learn is that at a given level of defeat, other actors control events," Cordesman concluded. "U.S. discussions of alternative plans and strategies may well be becoming largely irrelevant."

This kind of frank talk and bleak assessment is still impossible to hear from any major political figure in the United States, whether Republican or Democrat. It is extremely unusual to hear it from anyone in Washington foreign policy and national security think tank circles either.

Cordesman has thought the unthinkable and even dared to say it publicly. His reputation is too solid for him to be ridiculed or personally attacked. It is probable that policymakers and pundits alike will simply try to ignore him and pretend he never said it. But as Jesus said in the Gospel of St. Luke, "Wisdom is justified of all her children."

Source: United Press International

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General Discusses Chlorine Bombs, Helicopter Shoot-downs
Washington (AFNS) Feb 23, 2007
The enemy in Iraq is adaptive, and is interested in "catastrophic attacks," the commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq said today. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, met with Pentagon reporters over a satellite link from Baghdad. Insurgents blew up a tanker filled with chlorine yesterday in southern Baghdad. The attack killed at least two people and wounded more than 30. Coalition officials in Baghdad said this could be an escalation in the insurgent attacks.







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