From www.greenleft.org.au, the best political news website.
Why Bush's 'new' Iraq strategy will fail
Doug Lorimer, 12 January 2007
On January 10, US President George Bush
unveiled his government’s new plan for prosecuting Washington’s
almost four-year-old counterinsurgency war in Iraq, which
in a December 20 interview with the Washington Post he for the first time acknowledged the US
was “not winning”.
In marked contrast to past statements in
which Bush and his commanders repeatedly claimed that Washington was “on the brink of success” in its Iraq war,
that “insurgents” had been “brought to their knees” and “we have broken the back of the insurgency”,
in his January 10 speech Bush said: “The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people — and it is
unacceptable to me.”
Bush argued that the “best way forward”
is to increase US combat troop strength in Iraq.
Reporting on Bush’s 20-minute speech, the January 11 Forbes business magazine observed that, “After nearly four
years of bloody combat, the speech was perhaps Bush’s last credible chance to try to present a winning strategy in Iraq
and persuade Americans to change their minds about the unpopular war, which has cost the lives of more than 3000 members of
the US military as well as more than [US]$400 billion”.
The key feature of Bush’s “new”
plan is to increase the number of US troops deployed in Iraq
by 21,500 for at least the next two years. Most will go to Baghdad, doubling the
number of US combat troops in the Iraqi capital. Some 4000 extra marines will go to Iraq’s
western Anbar province, where US commanders have publicly
admitted that the 30,000 US troops already there have been
militarily stalemated by, and lost political control to, Iraqi resistance fighters.
currently has about 140,000 military personnel in Iraq, of
whom about 50,000 are combat troops. The January 11 US Army Times newspaper reported that “Pentagon officials will name
the five brigades that will comprise the 20,000-troop increased force-strength in Iraq, as well as the combat support and
combat service support units required to support them”.
“Almost all of the troops affected
will either be extended in Iraq or sent there early, defense
“Of the more than 20,000 service
members affected, about two-thirds will be deployed early and another third will be extended, a defense official said. One
unit will leave for Iraq about two weeks prior to what its
expected departure date was, the official said. Others, however, will be longer.”
Associated Press reported on January 11
that the increase in the size of the US occupation force in Iraq would largely come from reducing existing combat units’
time at home for rest and retraining between combat tours in Iraq, adding that “the faster pace of deployments could
force the Pentagon to call on National Guard and Reserve units more frequently — possibly to remobilize some that already
have served in Iraq”.
The Bush plan runs directly contrary to
what the majority of US voters want. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted immediately after Bush’s
January 10 speech, 61% of US voters oppose the plan, with 52% saying they strongly oppose it. Just 36% said they back it.
Bush’s “new” war strategy
also runs counter to the public comments made by General John Abizaid, the Pentagon’s top Middle East commander, in
testimony given on November 15 before the US Senate armed services committee.
Abizaid said there aren’t enough
troops to sustain a larger force in Iraq for very long. “We
can put in 20,000 more Americans tomorrow and achieve a temporary effect. But when you look at the overall American force
pool that’s available out there, the ability to sustain that commitment is simply not something that we have right now
with the size of the Army and the Marine Corps”, he told the committee.
commanders have grown increasingly alarmed about the burden long deployments in Iraq
are placing on the regular army. General Peter Schoomaker, the US Army’s chief of staff, warned Congress last month
that the active-duty army “will break” under the strain of current Iraq war deployments.
Former secretary of state Colin Powell,
a retired US Army general who headed the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993, told CBS TV’s December 17 Face the
Nation program that “the active army is about broken” and that the US was “not winning, we are losing”
the war in Iraq.
Commenting on proposals for a “surge”
in US troop strength in Iraq, Powell said: “There really
are no additional troops. All we would be doing is keeping some of the troops who were there, there longer and escalating
or accelerating the arrival of other troops.”
Reporting Schoomaker’s remarks to
Congress on December 14, Associated Press noted that US Army “officials say, only about 10,000 to 15,000 [extra] troops
could be sent and an end to the war would have to be in sight because it would drain the pool of available soldiers for combat”.
In his November 15 congressional testimony,
Abizaid said that the top US commanders in Iraq favoured keeping “the troop levels about where they are” while
assigning more US trainers and “advisers” to Washington’s puppet Iraqi security forces. There are currently
around 4000 US military personnel “embedded” as
“trainers” and “advisers” in the puppet Iraqi Army.
Rapidly shifting US military forces in
Iraq from direct combat against Iraqi anti-occupation resistance fighters to “training” and “advising”
Washington’s puppet Iraqi Army was one of the key recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan commission
headed by former secretary of state James Baker that was set up by Congress with Bush’s support to review the US war
In its report, publicly released on December
6, the ISG found that the existing strategy was failing, that the US
military’s situation in Iraq was “grave and deteriorating”.
The ISG proposed that during 2007 about half of the US combat troops in Iraq be “embedded” as “advisers”
in puppet Iraqi Army combat units, thus enabling Bush to claim that by early 2008 it had “withdrawn” most of its
“combat brigades” from Iraq.
The ISG concluded that increasing US troop
numbers in Iraq would be ineffective in reducing violent attacks (70% of which are directed against US and other foreign occupation
troops, according to the latest Pentagon figures released to the US Congress).
This view is supported by the results of
previous “surges” in US troops strength in Iraq.
As the January 10 San Francisco Chronicle editorialised: “There is nothing novel, and certainly nothing magical, about
President Bush’s plan to send a surge of troops into Baghdad to stabilize
the Iraqi capital. It has been tried twice, with Iraqi troops, in ‘Operation Together Forward’ — and it
As part of Operation Together Forward,
between July and October last year, US combat troop strength
in Baghdad was doubled with an extra 14,000 US soldiers being deployed there.
The increased number of US military patrols and raids throughout the city had little impact on the scale of the anti-occupation
insurgency. All it did was lead to a surge in the US casualty
rate — from 48 US troops killed in July to 65 in August,
to 72 in September and 110 in October.
In November, the US
troop death toll fell to 79 — still almost double the level in the month before the August-October Baghdad offensive.
It then jumped again with 118 US soldiers being killed in
December, making that month the third deadliest for the US
forces in Iraq since the occupation began in March 2003. The
two previous deadliest months were April and November 2004, when 135 and 137 US
troops were killed. In both of those two months, the US occupation forces suffered high casualties during bloody assaults
on the heavily defended rebel city of Fallujah, 55 kilometres west of Baghdad.
Even proponents of a sustained increase
in US combat troop strength in Iraq think Bush’s plan
will fail. Speaking on the US Public Broadcasting System’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Democrat legislator Jack Reed said:
“It’s going to be a gradual escalation of troops. And if 20,000 is the total, it will probably be inadequate.
To make a difference, I think you’d have a much larger force. And so, as a result, I think it’s going to be a
little too little and probably too late.”
From: International News, Green Left Weekly
issue #694 17 January 2007.