June 10, 2007

Going Long

Earlier this year, the disputes over the strategy for Iraq could get boiled down to three directions: go big, go home, or go long. Today's Washington Post reports that the third option has begun to get the most traction in both DC and Baghdad, as the two governments look for the best way to fight terror while ending the appearance of an occupation:

U.S. military officials here are increasingly envisioning a "post-occupation" troop presence in Iraq that neither maintains current levels nor leads to a complete pullout, but aims for a smaller, longer-term force that would remain in the country for years.

This goal, drawn from recent interviews with more than 20 U.S. military officers and other officials here, including senior commanders, strategists and analysts, remains in the early planning stages. It is based on officials' assessment that a sharp drawdown of troops is likely to begin by the middle of next year, with roughly two-thirds of the current force of 150,000 moving out by late 2008 or early 2009. The questions officials are grappling with are not whether the U.S. presence will be cut, but how quickly, to what level and to what purpose.

One of the guiding principles, according to two officials here, is that the United States should leave Iraq more intelligently than it entered. Military officials, many of whom would be interviewed only on the condition of anonymity, say they are now assessing conditions more realistically, rejecting the "steady progress" mantra of their predecessors and recognizing that short-term political reconciliation in Iraq is unlikely. A reduction of troops, some officials argue, would demonstrate to anti-American factions that the occupation will not last forever while reassuring Iraqi allies that the United States does not intend to abandon the country.

The planning is shaped in part by logistical realities in Iraq. The immediate all-or-nothing debate in Washington over troop levels represents a false dilemma, some military officials said. Even if a total pullout is the goal, it could take a year to execute a full withdrawal. One official estimated that with only one major route from the country -- through southern Iraq to Kuwait -- it would take at least 3,000 large convoys some 10 months to remove U.S. military gear and personnel alone, not including the several thousand combat vehicles that would be needed to protect such an operation.

The timing makes it clear that the debate over the supplemental has changed the strategy in both capitals. Using the time frame as described above, a drawdown of two-thirds of the US military in Iraq would have to start in December to finish by late 2008, presumably before the election. It would take that long to set the ground conditions for the lines of communication to get men and materiel out to the Persian Gulf, and it would take a large naval effort to provide the convoys for the transport back home or to Europe. It would have to start about the time Petraeus told Congress when he'd know whether the surge strategy had worked.

Both capitals understand that the US cannot entirely leave Iraq while al-Qaeda continues to operate there. Even most Democrats acknowledge that; only Bill Richardson among the serious presidential candidates has committed to total and immediate withdrawal. Norm Coleman explained reality to a University of Minnesota audience last month by saying a smaller deployment would have to remain in Iraq for "years" to fight against the terrorists who want to target America and its assets abroad.

This plan anticipates some rather striking developments. Chief among them: the willingness of Moqtada al-Sadr to engage in diplomacy rather than warfare. The Maliki government indicates that Sadr will negotiate for an end to his insurgency once he sees the US willing to significantly reduce its forces in Iraq. Sadr will have little objection to American forces remaining behind to target al-Qaeda and other Sunni insurgencies, most believe, but wants to see an end to American troops in the capital first.

It also relies on the Iraqi Army to maintain its strength after our departure. If the Iraqi Army can succeed in holding the areas we clear as part of the surge strategy, then the central government can gain credibility and encourage an amnesty for native insurgents, allowing them to re-enter Iraqi politics legitimately. This amnesty got scotched after Congress objected last year, but it will eventually have to happen if the Iraqis expect to return to a civil society.

That's a lot of assumptions, and any failure among them would doom Iraq to a bloody collapse. In that event, we would find our 10,000-man force -- the size anticipated in this strategy -- beleaguered on all sides and probably unable to extricate themselves quickly. It presents a huge risk not just to them, but to the stability of the states surrounding Iraq.

In the end, though, it's probably all we have left. We have lost the support necessary here at home to continue fighting the insurgencies and terrorists in Iraq with the kind of commitment necessary for victory. We have a short window in which to make these assumptions a reality so that we can maintain the Iraqi central government with a tenth of the forces that we have now -- and still convince many Americans that we have to continue fighting al-Qaeda where they present themselves, including Iraq. If that's going long, it looks more like a Hail Mary.


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Comments (24)

Posted by Tom Shipley | June 10, 2007 10:30 AM

But what will the terrorists say? We should wait until we know if they think any withdrawal of US troops is a victory for them before we consider this plan.

But seriously,

We have lost the support necessary here at home to continue fighting the insurgencies and terrorists in Iraq with the kind of commitment necessary for victory.

Not to sound like a broken record, but what is victory? I have serious reservations that a strong US military campaign to crush the popular militias would be A) a victory for Iraq B) unify Iraq. I think it would be seen as the US keeping Iraq the way it wants Iraq. Iraqis seem more loyal to the militias than they are to the government. If the US continues to battle the militias it's going to feed the notion that Iraqis are not in control of their country and keep reconciliation a far off dream.

this plan very close to what John Murtha called for 2 years ago. And it's the right plan for Iraq right now. Of course, when Murtha suggested withdrawing US troops, leaving some to battle terrorists, he was called a traitor and worse, but whatever. Some people are just slow on the take.

Posted by Fight4TheRight | June 10, 2007 10:39 AM

A dismal picture to say the least.

However, I think this Summer holds so many twists and turns and major changes that the overall picture of Iraq in September more than likely won't resemble what we see there now.

There will be major occurences this Summer in Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Pakistan and Iran - I hate to say it but none of it will be good. This just may be the summer of destiny for Iran - their involvement in Hezbollah, Hamas and in Iraq will probably be pushed to the limit where they make a total all out effort to dominate or they will find themselves in collapse, if not under attack at home.

I don't have a crystal ball but it's my belief that this is the Summer that Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria severely test the Israelis and when that happens, two things will occur:

1. There will be a major test of the resolve of the U.S. to defend Israel (primarily in American public opinion).
2. There will be significant shifts in Iranian focus from Iraq to Israel.

While the Summer offensive on Israel could be catastrophic, it will probably open the door for incredible advances by coalition forces in Iraq.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Iran's ambitions towards Israel backfire and give the West the legitimate opening they've been seeking to attack the nukes as well as implement a blockade of Iran.

Posted by grognard [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 10, 2007 11:04 AM

As we draw down the Iranians increase their efforts to gain influence and create chaos. That might be favoring people like Sadr, or even arming Sunni groups. The other possibility is that the Turks decide to punish the Kurds for the cross border attacks, , If the situation turns and the Iraq army starts to struggle then what? Do we decide to change course and go back in? Obviously that would be political suicide. So the country descends into open civil war? Of all the bad options we have partition is still the best bad option in that it allows the three major groups to be ruled by people they trust and there is a chance that the various factions will be distracted long enough with running their own territory and the borders would stabilize.

Posted by sanethinker [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 10, 2007 11:30 AM

If the United States and or Israel deals with Iran, 3/4th of the Iraq problem would be solved. It takes lots of planning,funds and supplies to fund insurgencies. With their mains source cut, the Iraq terrorists would be more vulnerabel to the Iraq army and police and not the other way around.
Iran is causing & funding problems in Iraq,Syria, Lebanan, Palestine, North Korea, Afganastan just to name a few. Most of the large pockets of terrists in the world are either funded or connected to Iran and or Saudia Arabia.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | June 10, 2007 11:42 AM

Tom Shipley said:

"this plan very close to what John Murtha called for 2 years ago. And it's the right plan for Iraq right now. Of course, when Murtha suggested withdrawing US troops, leaving some to battle terrorists, he was called a traitor and worse, but whatever"

Actually, I think most people laughed at Murtha then because of where he wanted to "redeploy" those troops. Okinawa?

Posted by syn | June 10, 2007 11:52 AM

I'm not clear on the idea of waging war against radical Islamic Jihad terrorism worldwide while simulanteously defeating ourselves in Iraq.

First, isn't Iraq a part of the globe?

Secondly, by disengaging are we not showing by example we do not have the will to wage war?

Thirdly, why is there an assumption that radical Islamic Jihadists are everywhere but Iraq?

Fourthly, if politicians and celeb stars believe Darfur is a humanitarian issue needing our military might why then is not Iraq also considered a humanitarian issue.

My primary question is again numero uno, due, tre e quatro why is Iraq the only country in the Middle East not considered a part of the global war against radical Islamic Jihad terrorism or for that matter why isn't it a part of the humanitarian globe?

Posted by NahnCee [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 10, 2007 11:56 AM

Predictions are that Israel and Hizbollah/Lebanon will resurrect their hostilities this summer. The dreadful Palestinians just attempted a new raid to kidnap another Israeli soldier, so some of those braindead terrorist wannabe's still think that's a viable tactic. Turkey's sending troops in over Iraq's northern border and harassing our BFF's the Kurds. And the UN has approved the investigation into Hariri's assassination, which means Syria will be looking to change the subject, too.

I don't think we can count on Iraq's neighbors to stand politely back and allow the Americans and what is already a fragmented, incompetent, greedy and lazy Iraqi government to pull together to solve Iraq's bloody problems.

Dubya has no street cred left at all, as a result of his support of a hugely unpopular internal immigration bill. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he backs resurrecting that stupid bill and spends more and more time trying to get it passed. And voters get more and more pissed of at his efforts, and less and less inclined to support Iraq as a result.

I think Iraq will dribble out with no one paying too much attention to it, as long as it's Arabs blowing up Arabs, until either the American Presidential race needs a kickstart, or Bush has been replaced. At that point, victory will be declared, and we'll pull out, faster rather than slower, and let the Iraqi's figure out their own fate. "So long, see ya, wouldn't want to be ya -- don't call us, we'll call you."

Of course, if someone decided to nuke Iran *before* then, all bets are off and all timelines are null and void.

Posted by docjim505 | June 10, 2007 12:24 PM

The dominant and unshakable impression I get from reading about this is that we are trying to plan how not to lose, NOT how to win. The implicit assumption is that we HAVE lost and are now trying to figure out how to minimize the damage.

If we don't play to win, we will certainly lose.

Posted by Carol Herman | June 10, 2007 12:28 PM

Low level fighting continues. And, Bush will be remembered as the fool who steered us into this mess.

Now, if only we taught American history well, people would see that we've seen this crap all before. Because it took hundreds of years to deal with the American indians. Where there were tribal cultureS dedicated to violence. And, taking what they could.

But it had odd ramifications. When Americans began building the railroad (done by private enterprise, folks. JUST LIKE THE INTERNET!) There were many indians who came to tear down the "high wires" ... that were put up for telegraph traffic. They used if for their arrows. Better than cat gut. But, again. You see how the voilence prone are NOT attracted to the same stuff that was attractive not just to Americans. But all those people, across the seas, who immigrated here.

The other battle Americans fought, early, still came with the first three presidents refusing to think Americans "wanted another war." And, that was the war we had against the arab pirates. From the shores of algeria, to the tip of Tripoli.

Yup. I think Winston Churchill was right. I think Americans "eventually" do the right thing. After getting lost in the thickets. And, the boondoggles that appear when the politicians are patrician.

America doesn't have a "man of the people" till Andrew Jackson got elected. Before that? They were the aristocrats. The few families that thought America wouldn't have a king. But they'd pass our crown back and forth, between them.

The WHIGS Henry Clay scoffed at Andrew Jackson's 1824 win. So Jackson had to repeat it. And, repeat it, again. Making Henry Clay's name ANATHEMA to his climb within his party. From 1840 to 1860 they went kaput.

Kaput now takes longer. The first breach for the donks came in 1980. When to WIN, Reagan grabbed the "blue collar democrats" and saw them becoming voters for RR. Though there were never members of the press on board this train.


Hillary has the old democrapic party in her grasp. But she's about as popular as Henry Clay. And, for her to win anything, she needs to see Americans remaining POLARIZED.

But the congressional critters just learned that the conservatives actually have a much larger base than assumed. Because it's not all composed of religious nutters carrying signs to put women in jail. The unlikely thing in DC just did happen! And, it took McCain down the toilet, as well.

What's the future in terms of what the song's gonna be?

When it comes to violence, Ben Franklin's autobiography detailed how the SAVAGES were not to be trusted. You could sign agreements with them. They were signing for the rum.

Here? The Saud's have spent billions on garnering a strength that doesn't exist. Except in Bush's head. And, he just got trounced on immigration. Don't let the press fool ya. Bush KNOWS he's in the crapper, now. Sure. he's probably not a happy man. That's why Bartlett left the white house post. (And, there's lots of holes there, now.)

As the powers who sit behind the thrones of power, are casting about. Trying to climb on board more successful trains. I'd bet Guiliani's phone rings off the hook, with talented people who see him as the potential to knock out Hillary. (And, yes. There's a lot of American focus on that.)

As to what happens in Irak? Or Lebanon? It seems the press hasn't got much going; since the only "updates" you can get come from DEBKA.

And, we get no explanations. In other words? You were lied to if you were told Turkey did not invade Northern Irak. How come our planes didn't protect the air space? Ya got me. I don't have answers.

You think Sandy Berger's pants look funny?

I think Bush is a riot and a half, now.

Sure, we're in Irak. And, it's been mismanaged for about 3 or 4 years. Which is Bush's batting average.

While in Lebanon? Who knew the palestinians, who have "statelets" within that state, given that they have 12 separate armed camps; have, in fact, come under threat. Again, you're not seeing much in the press. But it's the SUNNIs. All those palestinians are radical muslems. Who, for some reason, thought they'd blossom out of their camps and swallow Lebanon, whole. To be run by Syria. Yeah. I'm serious.

But while you don't get much news; it turns out that the one camp that was divided by warring groups; because that's the nature of the palestinians. They're armed to the teeth. And, they've made their underground a depository for arms. And, ROADS! They interweave, underground. Now, don't tell me you're suprised.

What is surprising is that the good guys seem to be winning, even though Bush is NOWHERE to be found!

My guess, is that when Hillary loses the press catches on that they're even more unpopular than Nixon. And, it's a hard marker to achieve! It's like Bush vying with Jimmy Carter for the "worst president" award.

How will the GOP handle this? Maybe, Tom Tancrado will give the nomination speech for Guiliani? Why not? Tancrado has already told Bush "not to darken his door." You see a better way to handle the mess created by Bush's White House? I don't.

While it remains a mystery who Guiliani will pick for veep; it would be a good sign if he can work something out with Fred. But wishful thinking isn't a way to bet on future events, either.

All I know is that Bush has managed to be shown for who he really is! And, that had stayed well hidden. Till now. The rest? Expect spilling beans.

Posted by MarkJ | June 10, 2007 1:38 PM

Dear Tom,

"this plan very close to what John Murtha called for 2 years ago. And it's the right plan for Iraq right now. Of course, when Murtha suggested withdrawing US troops, leaving some to battle terrorists, he was called a traitor and worse, but whatever. Some people are just slow on the take."

I'm all for a "withdrawal and redeployment"...of the Democratic Party from the United States. It would be wonderful to see that gaggle of loons make a beeline for Okinawa, where they won't be able to inflict any further damage.

As for Murtha's "brilliant plan," you've got to be kidding. My response to your (and his) brand of "cut 'n' run" is this: y'all must obviously be in favor of using tactical nukes and chemical weapons, because that's likely how we'll deal with Al Qaeda if we get hit again.

You somehow think an American retreat will chasten us, and preclude further military action in the future. If that's what you think, don't bet the farm on it. I suspect, instead, a majority of Americans in giving up on Iraq will also forever banish the thought that Islam is redeemable. And if that's the case, then they'll have little compunction about demanding an All-American Final Solution to the "Muslim Question" if or, more likely, when we get hit again on these shores. "If those bastards are so willing to die for Allah, then we'll give them every opportunity to do so."

That's what your crowd can't, or won't, understand: rather than risking further American lives, in the very near future John Q. Public might simply demand the extermination of Islam itself...and save the angst over the "whys and wherefores" for later. If the "water" of democracy fails, then it'll be "the fire next time."

Capisce, paisan?

Posted by Carol Herman | June 10, 2007 1:39 PM

Mookie. Al Sadr. Is IGNORANT. Unlearned. No access to anything but his "local version of religious teachings."

This means Mookie is very dependent on "gut reactions." And, the lies he's been told that Americans are weak. And, can be defeated.

While in Irak, the mess you've got has mostly been instigated by the SUNNIs. Sure, their names change; depending on where you're looking on the map.

But it's mostly red-checkered tablecloths in Irak. And, black checkered-tablecloths in gazoo.

While who even knows what's going on in Lebanon? Since, except for DEBKA, you're not getting any information.

From DEBKA? THe Turks advanced into Irak. The Americans fled the Kurdish sector. And, we're not providing border protection through our air force, either.

So who even know what erodes, here?

We are strangers over there. We don't "mix." And, unlike Israel, we're not even in the thick of it.

While in Lebanon? There's real fighting going on!

Good thing, too, that Sarkozy has replaced Chirac.

And, for some reason, the hostile press just sits in Tel Aviv. (So there must be rumors, galore, not making its ways into print.)

Though, from DEBKA, I learned that in one raid into the one palestinian camp that erupted in gun fire against the Lebanese Army: a computer disk has shown up. Laying out the way the SUNNIs were trying to convert Lebanon into a radical Sunni religious "mecca."

Since the disk's in the hands of Siniora. It's a good guess that a lot of this infrastructure has seen better days. (And, the second camp? Has NOT erupted.) If anything these designated "palestinians" are now worried about their host country, Lebanon, liking them all a whole lot less.)

So most of the mischief has gone unreported. But you could guess that you have a flare up in Tripoli; done by Assad. Who doesn't want to get hung on the Hariri murder noose ... working from behind the scenes.

And, the word play? ALL LIES.

I can't imagine what Bush and Olmert will "discuss." Since neither man has much of a reputation at home. But it should parlay into something "interesting." Because if the Saud's aren't desperate, yet, they should become so, ahead. Bush, as a generator of real estate for them, has just about collapsed.

What happens on Tuesday, June 19th? Dunno. Bush is gonna want to make a speech. If nothing shows up in the Rose Garden? Well, then you might learn that what's in play remains a secret.

Can the Saud's get America's latest technology? That's what Riyadh wants.

Seems the Net makes some of the old political maneuvers a little more difficult?

You expect war to break out this summer?

Well, take a coin out of your pocket. And, shoot it into the air. Nobody's gonna get an accurate reading on what lies ahead, folks.

Except? If this reaches the levels where the future debates among politicians rises ... How will that make Bush look as he sits and does his old game?

I'm just asking.

While I think there's more than one way, afoot, to put the SUNNI's on the ropes. I think they're on the ropes, now, in Lebanon, too. TWO: Irak is ONE.

What's for THREE?

Posted by Nostradamus | June 10, 2007 3:22 PM

Ed, I am a Retired 1st Lieutenant, 75th Regiment, 3rd Battalion, Ft. Benning Georgia. I am surprised that Bush doesn't give the Defeatest Democrats a taste of what they propose. I advocate that tomorrow morning, all Iraqi's find all American Troops Garrisoned in their respective Bases. Just for a week. Wearen't leaving, and we can quickly resume our positions in the Field. I would love to hear your opinion of what the result would be. How would Al-Sadr react. What would the average Sunni think? I think the Shites would be begging for us to come back, and fast. But the brilliance of this plan would be that it happens now, while we're still there, and BEFORE the U.S. elections hit full tilt. This would be devastating to the Democrat candidates. It would also remove this foolish talk from the campaign once and for all. What say you, Ed?

Posted by Tom W. | June 10, 2007 4:04 PM

More important than this report is the fact that daily the U.S. military and NATO are releasing info about Iran's meddling in Iraq and Afghanistan. General Petraeus has even identified the two groups training terrorists "on Iranian soil."

That becomes very interesting against the backdrop of the following: We replaced the head of CENTCOM with an admiral.

Next, the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs may also be an admiral, while his second-in-command will likely be an air force general who is currently head of Strategic Command. STRATCOM deals with how to destroy a nation's infrastructure and how to deter enemy missiles.

The Iraqi government recently warned that it would "crush with an iron fist" those who continued to interfere in Iraq's affairs.

Recently there was a House bill that would've required Bush to get permission from Congress before he ordered an attack on Iran; it was soundly defeated.

Finally, the American and French navies have integrated their carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf in order to perform "future missions" as one cohesive unit, according to the Pentagon. The new French foreign minister supports the Iraq war and has demanded that Iran stop threatening Israel.

Captain Ed says this Iraq redeployment plan sounds like a "Hail Mary" play: If, however, Iran is neutralized by naval bombardment, air strikes, cruise missiles, and strategic bombing that destroy its military, nuclear, and economic capabilities, the plan makes a lot of sense.

The writer Pat Dollard says that's exactly what's going to happen, and that Cheney visited the Sunni Gulf states to prepare them.

Who better to take out Iran than the French (for international cover) and a lame-duck American president who is already dismally unpopular and doesn't care a fig about polls?

Posted by Tom Shipley | June 10, 2007 4:32 PM

If the "water" of democracy fails, then it'll be "the fire next time."

It's telling, Mark, that you put the US in the position of God. And I find it kind of disturbing that you think we'd consider a "final solution" for the "islam problem." this is the kind of alarmist thinking that got us involved in Iraq in the first place.

I agree with Ed that a reduction with troops with a long-term (or perhaps not all that long if not need) smaller troop presence to fight al-qaeda, train/consult/aid the Iraqi army is the best scenerio at this point (and I define "this point" as covering at least the past two years).

and still convince many Americans that we have to continue fighting al-Qaeda where they present themselves, including Iraq.

Ed, I just noticed this. I really don't think most Americans will need to be convinced to keep troops in Iraq to fight the AQ elements there. There's always been and always will be I think strong support for fighting al qaeda. And if we can do that in Iraq without "owning" the country, I don't think you'll hear much resistance to it.

Posted by Tom | June 10, 2007 5:10 PM

This particular article sounds like a plan for disaster, and I doubt that it is ever implemented. You and the other Tom have your white flags cleaned and pressed. The rest of us will fight to the death. You two dishonor those brave souls in harms way now, and in past conflicts, to protect this great, though imperfect,country.
Furthermore, your implied attachment to the Navy is an embarrassment to the real navals who happen upon your blog. Change the name!

Posted by Tom | June 10, 2007 5:12 PM

This particular article sounds like a plan for disaster, and I doubt that it is ever implemented. You and the other Tom have your white flags cleaned and pressed. The rest of us will fight to the death. You two dishonor those brave souls in harms way now, and in past conflicts, to protect this great, though imperfect,country.
Furthermore, your implied attachment to the Navy is an embarrassment to the real navals who happen upon your blog. Change the name!

Posted by Tom Shipley | June 10, 2007 5:38 PM


I'm sure my grandfather would disagree with your statement that my views dishonor those who servied in past conflcts. Speak for youself.

And to be fair to Ed, I'm much more of a white flag surrender monkey than he is. I mean, I dousually vote democratic. Ed at least seems to like Fred Thompson, so he can't be all bad, right?

Posted by Drew | June 10, 2007 6:59 PM

This sure sounds like a plan to have a "light footprint" in Iraq. Now where have we heard that before?

Posted by gaffo | June 10, 2007 7:43 PM

"Peace with Honour" time.


welcome to reality and its Liberal bias.

Posted by burt | June 10, 2007 9:15 PM

Has Sadr had more than nine lives yet? Seems like he gets two or three every year.

Posted by azlibertarian | June 10, 2007 10:43 PM

Maybe this is just me, but I'm not ready to send in the helicopters yet.

Posted by The Yell | June 11, 2007 2:39 AM

This seems to be a return to the failures of Vietnam: figure out what it would take to win the war, and do less.

What happens when "Al Qaeda elements" outnumber our forces in Iraq? Run airstrikes into the cities we won't patrol?

The US electorate soured on Iraq when Iraqis started slaughtering each other wholesale. This isn't going to do a thing to stop that.

The Republican party used to be about driving world events to the benefit of the United States. Now it's just in CYA mode at home and reacting to threats abroad.

Posted by Dale Michaud aka TexasDude | June 11, 2007 7:44 AM

Hey, Vietnam is what the American media and left do best!

Posted by TyCaptains | June 11, 2007 4:05 PM

There is little point to blaming the "other side" regardless of what side you are on.

We should be discussing whether or not the "Korea" model is good or even worth it.

Frankly, I don't see how it does much of anything. The situations between Korea and Iraq are very far apart.

S. Korea welcomed us. Iraq doesn't. Korea was easy to draw a border between us and the "bad guys". In Iraq, you can't do this. Hmm, I fail to see how it will work at all.