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April 20, 2007

The Failure Of Iraqification Iraq

The Iraqification of the war — Iraqi troops "standing up" so US troops can "stand down" — has always been an absurdly impossible dream. Never happen. McClatchy Newspapers say the Pentagon's finally facing up to that fact, but unfortunately it's replacing it with an even more impossible dream: US troops single-handedly defeating the insurgents and gaining control of Iraq. Never happen. Excerpts:

Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces.

Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iraq policy since 2005, has dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said.

No change has been announced, and a Pentagon spokesman, Col. Gary Keck, said training Iraqis remains important. "We are just adding another leg to our mission," Keck said, referring to the greater U.S. role in establishing security that new troops arriving in Iraq will undertake.

But evidence has been building for months that training Iraqi troops is no longer the focus of U.S. policy. Pentagon officials said they know of no new training resources that have been included in U.S. plans to dispatch 28,000 additional troops to Iraq. The officials spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to discuss the policy shift publicly. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made no public mention of training Iraqi troops on Thursday during a visit to Iraq. [...]

Maj. Gen. Doug Lute, the director of operations at U.S. Central Command, which oversees military activities in the Middle East, said that during the troop increase, U.S. officers will be trying to determine how ready Iraqi forces are to assume control.

"We are looking for indicators where we can assess the extent to which we are fighting alongside Iraqi security forces, not as a replacement to them," he said. Those signs will include "things like the number of U.S.-only missions, the number of combined U.S.-Iraqi missions, the number where Iraqis are in the lead, the number of Joint Security Stations set up," he said.

That's a far cry from the optimistic assessments U.S. commanders offered throughout 2006 about the impact of training Iraqis.

President Bush first announced the training strategy in the summer of 2005.

"Our strategy can be summed up this way," Bush said. "As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." [...]

Throughout 2006, Casey and top Bush administration leaders touted the training as a success, asserting that eight of Iraq's 10 divisions had taken the lead in confronting insurgents. [...]

[But] in nearly every area where Iraqi forces were given control, the security situation rapidly deteriorated. The exceptions were areas dominated largely by one sect and policed by members of that sect.

In the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, which Bush celebrated last year as an example of success, suspected Sunni Muslim insurgents set off a bomb last month that killed as many as 150 people, the largest single bombing attack of the war. Shiite Muslim mobs, including some police officers, pulled Sunnis from their homes and executed dozens afterward. U.S. troops were dispatched to restore order.

Earlier this month, U.S. forces engaged in heavy fighting in the southern city of Diwaniyah after Iraqi forces, who'd been given control of the region in January 2006, lost control of the city.

U.S. officials said they once believed that if they empowered their Iraqi counterparts, they'd take the lead and do a better job of curtailing the violence. But they concede that's no longer their operating principle. [...]

Many officials are vague about when the U.S. will know when troops can begin to return home. Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. is trying to buy "time for the Iraqi government to provide the good governance and the economic activity that's required."

One State Department official, who also asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject, expressed the same sentiment in blunter terms. "Our strategy now is to basically hold on and wait for the Iraqis to do something," he said. [Emphasis added]

This is what the surge is about: US troops shouldering aside the Iraqis. But we've seen this movie before, in Vietnam. There are plenty of differences between Iraq and Vietnam, but some things haven't changed. Once again, we see a succession of increasingly desperate plans, each touted as the answer, the one that will turn things around, and each diverging farther and farther from reality. Can-do planners see US "credibility" as being on the line, so they keep upping the ante — and sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksand. No general or politician wants to be the one to say it can't be done. They've got their egos and careers to consider. But it's Iraqis who pay the awful price.

Posted by Jonathan at April 20, 2007 10:55 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb