Thursday, December 07, 2006

The New Way Forward!

It isn't very likely W. will admit to the fact that he's following any of the ISG's recommendations, but this is not to say the administration isn't going to adjust its policies in Iraq. Many of the recommendations in the ISG's report have been floating around for a long time; W. & Co. just felt no urgency to seriously consider any of them until Nov. 7. Now that W. & Co. have got their backs to the wall, they've decided to preempt the report's release by taking a little from column A and a little from column B and dubbing it the "new way forward."

The "new way forward" is a not so clever way of getting around having to admit that they needed Daddy's help in Iraq. The Pentagon is well on its way to enacting ISG's recommendations for moving a substantial number of US troops into advisory roles to train the Iraqi army. The NYT reported yesterday that, "American commanders in Iraq are already shifting thousands of combat troops into advisory positions with Iraqi Army and police units. . . Changes in troop assignments over just the past three weeks included moving about 1,000 American soldiers in Baghdad from traditional combat roles to serve as trainers and advisers to Iraqi troops."

The Pentagon's new plan involves tripling or quadrupling the number of "advisers" assigned to training the Iraqi army, elite police units and border guards in order to eventually draw down US combat forces as the Iraqis theoretically become more capable. [But not the 10,000 a month that would be needed to have the number down to zero by April '08] Although this all sounds great on paper, who will be left to continue to fight the "Battle of Baghdad?" As more combat units are transitioned into training roles there's going to be this rather large donut hole in Baghdad. It's not like those 5,000 Iraqi ghost troops US commanders have been asking for the past five months are suddenly going to materialize to help the miniscule number of US troops trying to keep the lid on. And even if they were there, a DoD report recently said only one in four Iraqi battalions were able to "perform a useful function." [The Afghan army is slightly worse]

And what about Anbar province? If anything, the Marines there need massive reinforcements. A "senior officer" tells the NYT, not too hopefully that, "we'll try and keep our heads above water in Anbar." This doesn’t sound like a very promising start to the "new way forward." Perhaps if another administration were attempting this dubious scheme I'd have more faith in the ultimate outcome, but this panicked pivoting is being orchestrated by the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.

I heard Carl Levin, soon to be the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, on NPR today saying that he would favor spending billions more in funding to purchase equipment for the Iraqi forces. He reasons that spending billions more is worth the expense if it means our people come home sooner. That is all well and fine, but the billions we've spent on them so far has all gone into the pockets of crooked Iraqis and crooked contractors. Very little equipment winds up in the hands of Iraqi troops. In fact, Iraqi army units that actually do fight regularly run out of ammunition and wind up beheaded.

Tony Snow-job said in October that the administration's thinking on the ISG was that they weren't going to "outsource the business of the handling of the war in Iraq." Of course, this is precisely what they've done. They just don't want anyone crashing the party. The situation with the contractors is totally out of control. The WaPo reports that there are almost 100,000 contractors in Iraq -- all getting fat off the US tax payer. Before we talk about pumping zillions more into the Iraq/Afghanistan money hole, there needs to be some serious oversight of what exactly companies like DynCorp. are actually up to. The NYT reported on Monday that a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department found that:

"The American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine police law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone. . . [The DoD report cited above said that in Iraq, too, there is no way to count the number of Iraqi police or the effectiveness of their units] Police training experts who have studied or had first-hand experience with the American effort in Afghanistan said they agreed with the report's findings . . . But they said additional problems needed to be investigated, including the quality of private contractors and the cost and effectiveness of relying on them to train police officers. . . In particular, the experts questioned why the report focused on United States managers and only glancingly analyzed the performance of the principle contractor in Afghanistan, DynCorp International of Virginia."

We all know why the report passed over the likes of DynCorp, which has received $1.6 billion for its training and security work in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past three years (and has damn little to show for it.). The administration, for obvious reasons, doesn't want to anyone looking too closely into what they're business buddies are up to. The mindset in the administration is that business can always do a better job than the government. Perhaps, this government can't find its ass with both hands, but previous administrations have managed to win wars without the help of KBR and Halliburton. This reliance on outsourcing our wars has to end. The only way the "new way forward" has any chance of working is if the Congress actually starts holding the administration accountable and begins to put people in jail for ripping us off.


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