Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pressure builds in Iraq

There are four general goals for Iraq that must be achieved, or else the violence will continue and may intensify.
1. Disarm the Shiite militias

2. Disarm the Sunni insurgency

3. Share the oil wealth

4. Create a government that can draw in most ethnic/tribal groups
4.a. A government seen as legitimate

4.b. A government capable of providing security and services

4.c. A government that is not usurped by militias
When we review the state of affairs in Iraq, we should keep these in mind.

Thirty Shiite civilians were kidnapped from a bus on their way to Balad, BBC News.

Nouri al Maliki ordered the Iraqi and American forces encircling Sadr city to stand down, the New York Times. Zeyad, of Healing Iraq, said that the presence of military forces lead to coup rumors in Baghdad. This is another indication that Maliki does not have the political strength to take on Sadr's militia. The Washington Post:
Precisely at 5 p.m. local time (9 a.m. EST), the deadline set by Maliki, U.S. armored personnel carriers pulled away from the roadblocks. Young men in pickup trucks drove through the streets waving banners of the Mahdi Army, and drivers of other vehicles honked their horns in celebration.

It was the Maliki government's greatest demonstration of independence from the occupying U.S. military forces, following two weeks of heated exchanges between Iraqi and U.S. officials. But it was also a reminder of the degree to which Maliki must cooperate with Sadr, who leads the political party that comprises one of the biggest blocs in the governing alliance and effectively runs the Shiite stronghold named for his deceased father.

Maliki has been harshly criticized by U.S. officials here and in Washington for not acting aggressively enough to combat and disarm the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias, some of which have infiltrated Iraqi police stations . At the same time, the U.S. government has been calling on Iraq to embrace timelines and benchmarks for progress, and Maliki instead has stressed his independence from the United States.
Mike, of Born at the Crest of Empire, pointed out a New York Times story on Stephen Hadley's trip to Iraq. There are rumors that the United States may increase troop strength in Iraq by as many as 10,000 to 30,000. In the past, the U.S. has increased troop strength by a lesser degree -- brigade by brigade. CBS has reported that American commanders may request 100,000 more Iraqi troops for the total size of the force. CNN has reported the number may only be 30,000. According to CNN, there are 310,000 Iraqi troops that are trained and equipped. The goal is set at 325,000.

The Boston Globe reports that reconstruction projects are not living up to the hype:
WASHINGTON -- Deteriorating security in Iraq and bureaucratic wrangling between the State Department and the Pentagon have undermined the US government's effort to train provincial governments, according to a report to Congress released yesterday by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.


Now, a year later, only four provinces out of 13 examined by the special inspector general's office had US personnel that were "generally able" to carry out their missions, according to a detailed audit on the teams released by the inspector general on Sunday. Teams helping nine other provincial governments reported varying degrees of success, from "somewhat able" to "generally unable" to fulfill their missions.
The Iraqi government has asked for $100 billion in aid over the next five years, AP. This aid would be for the restoration of infrastructure. However, it is hard to actually estimate how much infrastructure will cost when there is a robust insurgency attacking infrastructure projects.

Iraqi forces have demonstrated a broad lack of reliability. Some units have carried themselves well, of course. Many Iraqis have sacrificed everything to try and bring peace and stability to their country. But, relying on Iraqi forces is not a prudent step in the near-term. Requests for six battalions of Iraqi forces for operations in Baghdad resulted in two units. If the United States wants to increase combat power in Iraq, they will have to hold units as more units rotate into the country. As Baghdad is the key to preserving this fledgling Iraq government, we should expect some units will remain on extended tours in Iraq. The last published source I read indicated that the Stryker Brigade (172nd, Alaska based) will leave Iraq in November. Their tour was originally extended till Christmas. The 4th ID is scheduled to leave Iraq in November. They will return to their base in Fort Hood. Their replacement is the First Cav, also based at Fort Hood. Michael Gordon of the New York Times wrote a few weeks ago that the 4 ID may stay in Iraq for a longer tour while their neighbors arrive in the capital. I think this is very likely to happen.

There are few developments that have a positive impact on the four main goals outlined at the beginning of this post. Most likely for this reason, U.S. commanders are privately thinking about timetables and benchmarks -- with teeth, I assume. The Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON -- Growing numbers of American military officers have begun to privately question a key tenet of U.S. strategy in Iraq — that setting a hard deadline for troop reductions would strengthen the insurgency and undermine efforts to create a stable state.

"Deadlines could help ensure that the Iraqi leaders recognize the imperative of coming to grips with the tough decisions they've got to make for there to be progress in the political arena," said a senior Army officer who has served in Iraq. He asked that his name not be used because he did not want to publicly disagree with the stated policy of the president.


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