Wednesday, January 31, 2007

William Fallon and the surge:

So Admiral William Fallon, W's new nominee to head CentCom, told the Senate Armed Services committee yesterday that "what we've been doing is not working and we've got to be doing, it seems to me, something different." Surprise, surprise, he told the Senators W.'s past policies haven't worked. How candid! (I love straight talk from those military types.) He wasn't so clear on a lot of political guest ions of the day, he said 'I don't know' a lot to direct questions from Senators like John McCain and Hillary Clinton about specific issues regarding the mess in Iraq, but he's sure that "with God's help" it will all work out. He's got a month to bone-up on the disaster W. has decided to hang around his neck before John Abizaid retires, but I'm sure he'll do great.

Abizaid, by the way, is basically persona non grata in the neocon-crazy-world these days for his "light footprint" strategy in Iraq which, according to geniuses like William Kristal and the brains trust at the Weakly Standard, has failed so spectacularly. [The misspelling, this time, is intentional.] From now on, the plan is to "clear and hold." No really, this time we mean it. All the times that we've attempted the very same strategy in the past and it turned out to be a catastrophic failure -- like operations Pull Together Forward I and II [And Fallujah I and II, for that matter] that was just poor execution on the part of generals like Casey and Abizaid.

Meet the new surge, same as the old surge:

I was trolling through my archives the other day and I came across a NYT article from December 5, 2005 about what the military was then calling "raid and dig in." Not as nice sounding as "clear and hold," but basically the same thing this new surge policy is supposed to accomplish. And just as futile, I might point out. Back then the plan was to move into a town, in this case Husabya, in Anbar Province, and "dig in." Husabya was considered to be a "well-spring" of the Sunni insurgency; a warren of pipelines and "ratlines" of weapons and fighters into Anbar.
Kirk Semple wrote that by:

"Providing a continual security presence and improvements in the quality of life, the American command hopes to win support for the elected leadership and deny the insurgency the popular support they seek [Where have I heard that recently?] . . . Since spring, the number of Iraqi troops operating in Anbar Province has surged to the current level of about 16,000 from about 2,500 in March, said Maj. General Stephan T. Johnson, commander of Multinational Force West and Second Marine Expeditionary Force, which oversees security in Anbar. The Iraqis join about 32,000 coalition troops." [Funny, isn't that the exact number of U.S troops General Patreaus will have in Baghdad if W.'s new surge plan is implemented?]

Of course, back then, too, there was (and still is) that ever present problem of the capability of the Iraqi soldiers to act like adults, of which I've posted so much about in the past few days:

"To this reporter embedded with the assault force, the Iraqis often seemed disorganized, complacent and undisciplined. On the north side of the river, [the Euphrates] where the Iraqis had a chance to take the lead, because they outnumbered the Americans, house-to-house clearing operations were sloppy. The troops moved unsystematically from house to house, sometimes giving buildings nothing more than a glance or, worse, bypassing them altogether. [See previous posts on operations in Haifa Street] Some soldiers demonstrated unorthodox uses of their weapons, including two soldiers who used their Kalashnikov rifles to swat a ball around as if they were playing field hockey, according to American soldiers who witnessed the scene, and several who used their rifles to pry metal security doors off their hinges."

Now, someone please tell me what has changed in a year since this article was written? The Iraqi army is no more ready to operate as an effective military force than they were a year ago. Having them "take the lead" is going to lead to higher U.S. casualties, plain and simple. If a casual observer of the situation in Iraq can see this train wreck about to happen, why can't many of our most distinguished Senators see it?


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