UPI Pentagon Correspondent
Washington DC (UPI) Jan 11, 2007
The promised surge of U.S. troops may not happen if the Iraqi government does not live up to its promises, the U.S. defense secretary and secretary of state suggested Thursday. "Before very many American soldiers have been sent to Iraq, we'll have a pretty good early indication of their performance," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said at a press conference the morning after U.S. President George W. Bush announced a new infusion of troops and strategy for Iraq. But Gates stopped short of saying U.S. troops would be held back if the Iraqi government did not perform.
"Our belief is they will fulfill these commitments. But if we see them falling short, we will make sure that they know that and how strongly we feel about it," Gates said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also demurred from making an explicit threat of the withdrawal of U.S. troops when pressed by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"Are there any circumstances that that (Bush) or you are willing to share in which we would say to the Iraqis we are no longer maintaining American combat troops in Iraq?" Obama asked.
"I'm not going to speculate ... but of course there are circumstances," Rice answered.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has advocated for two years the United States threaten to withdraw troops from Iraq if the government in Baghdad does not do the political work required to piece the country back together.
He told UPI Tuesday he believes the fact that the Iraqi parliament operates from the protected "green zone" insulates them from the problems of the country. If the death of more than 8,000 civilians in Baghdad since May -- most of them executed by death squads -- is not enough to force the Iraqi government to take action, Levin said a threat to their own safety may be the only way to compel action.
Asked what leverage the United States has over Baghdad, Rice danced aroung an explicit threat of withdrawal.
"The leverage is we are not going to stay married to a plan that's not working in Baghdad," Rice said. "I just think it is bad policy to speculate on what you'll do if the strategy you are working on doesn't work. ...I think they know if it doesn't work, we are not going to be able to support them at the levels that we do."
It will become clear within a month whether Maliki can deliver on his promises. He has committed to provide three Iraqi army brigades to the Baghdad fight by Feb. 15, and has promised to lift all political and sectarian controls on military operations that have prevented the aggressive targeting of militias and death squads, particularly in the Shiite slum known as Sadr City.
"We're going to know pretty early on whether the Iraqis are meeting their military commitments in terms of being able to go into all neighborhoods, in terms of the Iraqis being in the lead in carrying out the leadership in the fighting, and for there not to be political interference in the military operations that are going forward," Gates said.
A major change will be the lifting of political restrictions
"I think one of the most important commitments that the prime minister has made is that in this offensive, the military will have the authority to go after all law breakers. There are no exceptions," Gates said.
Gates said the so-called surge will actually be a gradual increase of U.S. troop levels, now at around 135,000.
"The increase in military forces will be phased in. It will not unfold overnight. There will be no D-Day. It won't look like the Gulf War," he said.
Absent a threat of withdrawal, that phased addition of troops could be critical leverage, possibly the only leverage, the United States has over the Iraqi government which has so far demonstrated either an unwillingness or inability to quell the violence and reach the political compromise needed to draw the fractured country together.
If the surge goes ahead, Gates said it will take several months to see progress in Baghdad. He warned progress will not be easily recognized.
"It isn't going to be like anything we've experienced before in terms of when we'll know whether or not we're being successful," he said.
Gates said success will be defined as the Iraqi government reaching the point "where the political process can go forward, where the reconciliation process can go forward, where an oil law can be passed for the distribution of the revenues from the oil sales, where provincial elections can go forward, and where the government is actually beginning to make its writ felt outside Baghdad."
He warned of grave consequences if the United States and the forces of stability do not prevail in Iraq.
"At this pivotal moment, the credibility of the United States is on the line in Iraq," he said. "Whatever one's views on how we got to this point in Iraq, there is widespread agreement that failure there would be a calamity that would haunt our nation in the future and in the region. The violence in Iraq, if unchecked, could spread outside its borders and draw other states into a regional conflagration. In addition, one would see an emboldened and strengthened Iran, a safe haven and base of operations for jihadist networks in the heart of the Middle East, a humiliating defeat in the overall campaign against violent extremism worldwide and an undermining of the credibility of the United States. Given what is at stake, failure in Iraq is not an option."
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace said the 21,500 additional troops in Iraq - well short of the vast numbers a standard counterinsurgency plan call for -- will make a significant difference.
"This is not a reinvasion of Iraq," Pace said at the press conference Thursday. "This is looking at the problem areas, specifically Baghdad and Al Anbar, to determine what we can do to help the Iraqi government to protect their own people."
Pace denied that the number of troops was determined by how many the Army and Marine Corps could reasonably provide rather than by the commanders' needs on the ground.
"Being stretched is part of the equation, but it does not impact the recommendation about how many troops are needed," Pace said. "We have sufficient capacity inside the U.S. armed forces to be able to do this plus-up."
The troops will be patrolling, running traffic checkpoints, acting as crisis quick reaction forces, and conducting door to door searches.
Gates was uncertain how long the 21,500 additional troops will remain in Iraq if indeed they all go.
"It's viewed as a temporary surge. But I think no one has a really clear idea of how long that might be," he said.
The additional troops will be achieved by accelerating those forces already scheduled to deploy to Iraq and by retaining units past their scheduled deployment end.
They will also be resourced from the National Guard and Reserve. Gates Thursday announced a technical change in deployment policy that could result in reserve soldiers getting redeployed multiple times and sooner than planned.
The current policy manages each reserve soldier's deployment time individually, putting limits on how long and how often they can be deployed. The new policy will manage deployments by unit regardless of the member's deployment times. The U.S. Army chief of staff endorsed that approach last month.
The goal is for reservists to deploy for one year and then have five years at home. The current pace is more like two years to five, Pace said. The new rules announced Thursday will also limit any single reserve deployment to 12 months.
Gates also announced his recommendation to Bush that the military grow by 92,000 troops - 65,000 Army soldiers and 27,000 Marines. That would bring the Army to 547,000 and the Marine Corps to 202,000.
earlier related report
"It is clear that we need a change of strategy in Iraq," said the president in a televised speech to the nation Wednesday night.
This is the seventh change of policy in the three years the United States has been involved militarily in Iraq. Opponents of the war see this latest policy shift as an escalation in the conflict rather than a move towards a solution.
"Unwilling to accept the failure of his war of aggression in Iraq, his 'war of choice,' Bush announced tonight a plan that will succeed only in sending thousands of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers to their graves in the next year," said a communique from ANSWER, the left-leaning anti-war coalition.
The general belief by the president and his closest advisers is that the additional troops will help suppress the lawlessness and fight off the insurgency. The aim is to try and bring about some form of law and order in a country where havoc and chaos rules.
"Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States," said Bush. "The consequences of failure are clear," said the president, indicating it would open the way for al-Qaida and their supporters, who would use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. "Iran can be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons," said Bush.
Many analysts, however, see the infusion of additional American forces in Iraq as shortsighted policy that will provide the insurgents that many more targets to go after.
President Bush's plan to deploy more troops to "clean" and then hold neighborhood by neighborhood in Baghdad sounds good on paper. But the president's plan leaves much room for wishful thinking in believing that radical change -- for the better -- is going to occur among Iraqi forces overnight. Why would the death squads suddenly disappear? Why would the Sunni-Shiite mistrust dissipate based on a speech delivered by the American president?
Why would Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki's promise to keep sectarianism and politics out of his security forces be different this time? Promises from Iraqi leaders have failed in the past.
"Iraq's Maliki government has to date proven incapable and unwilling to allow political and economic developments necessary to stabilization. And it has failed to stem Sunni insurgents and has refused to suppress Shiite death squads," commented James Hoge, editor, and Peter G. Peterson, chair of Foreign Affairs. "Meanwhile, the insurgency has gained new recruits among despairing Iraqis and increased the effectiveness of its tactics," added Hoge and Peterson.
"The most realistic outlook is for civil strife between Shiites and Sunnis to rage on for a number of years until there is a clear winner, a compromise borne of exhaustion or a break up of the country. The challenge for the United States will be to keep the entire, oil-rich region from descending into chaos," say Hoge and Peterson.
Bush said he told the Iraqi prime minister "America's commitment is not open ended." If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises it will lose the support of the American people.
Flexing his political muscle Bush announced the dispatch of a third carrier task force to the Middle East and singled out Syria and Iran, saying that "these two regimes are allowing terrorists to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq." Bush said Iran was providing material support for attacks on American troops.
William Nash, a senior fellow for conflict prevention and director of the Center for Preventive Action, found the president's speech "incomplete and disappointing."
"On the diplomatic side he once again antagonized Iran and Syria, and left no room for any cooperation. Politically, his 'benchmarks' for Iraqi progress and goals for democracy were weak and unrealistic. He failed to articulate the consequences of Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks. Militarily, he promised priority on Baghdad and Anbar and increased activity in countering Syrian and Iranian interference, but not how the latter would be accomplished -- empty threats or more conflict?"
Replying to the president's televised speech to the nation, ANSWER said: "Bush gave the people of the United States a warning that they should expect the coming year will be 'bloody and violent,' with TV screens filled with images of death and suffering. He tried to inoculate himself from responsibility for this carnage although his plan makes it inevitable."
Indeed, it seems inevitable that before long there will be the need for another change of policy in Iraq.
Source: United Press International
Iraq: The first techonology war of the 21st century
US To Beef Up Army And Marines By 92,000
Washington (AFP) Jan 11, 2007
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Thursday he would seek to expand overall US armed forces by 92,000, saying it was not known how long a beefed-up US force would be needed in Iraq. He spoke a day after President George W. Bush ordered the deployment of an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq as part of a major shift in war strategy.
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