Monday, October 02, 2006

Progress in Ramadi, but is this "clear, hold and build"?

In March of 2006, the president expressed his strategy for success in Iraq,
The ability of al Qaeda and its associates to retake Tal Afar was an example of something we saw elsewhere in Iraq. We recognized the problem, and we changed our strategy. Instead of coming in and removing the terrorists, and then moving on, the Iraqi government and the coalition adopted a new approach called clear, hold, and build. This new approach was made possible because of the significant gains made in training large numbers of highly capable Iraqi security forces. Under this new approach, Iraq and coalition -- Iraqi and coalition forces would clear a city of the terrorists, leave well-trained Iraqi units behind to hold the city, and work with local leaders to build the economic and political infrastructure Iraqis need to live in freedom.
Colonel MacFarland, who commands the 1st Armored Division, seems to side with Donald Rumsfeld's strategy of developing the Iraqi forces to clear, hold and build. This strategy would result in an earlier U.S. departure from the area, and I think it also reduces the likelihood of success. The AP:
WASHINGTON — It is still possible to defeat the entrenched insurgency in Iraq's western Anbar province but probably not until U.S. troops leave, the American commander of forces in the provincial capital said Friday.

The insurgents are losing ground, and Iraqi security forces are gaining, said Army Col. Sean B. MacFarland, commander of 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division. He also said his soldiers' goal is not to destroy the insurgency but to build up the Iraqi army and police to a point where they can fight the insurgents on their own.

In an interview with reporters at the Pentagon from his headquarters in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, MacFarland was asked if it would be fair to say his mission is not to actually win or to defeat the insurgency.

"I think so," he replied.

"You know, an insurgency is a very difficult thing to defeat in a finite period of time. It takes a lot of persistence _ perseverance is the actual term that we like to use. Who knows how long this is going to actually last? But if we get the level of violence down to a point where the Iraqi security forces are more than capable of dealing with it, the insurgency's days will eventually come to an end. And they will come to an end at the hands of the Iraqis who, by definition, will always be perceived as more legitimate than an external force like our own."

He did not say point-blank that the insurgency could be defeated only if U.S. forces left, but he emphasized that the security force best suited to deal with anti-government elements eventually will be the Iraqi police.
The strategy that we ultimately are following is under debate based on Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial". It seems as though Bush invokes "clear, hold and build" more as a mantra than a strategy, because the Pentagon is following a "build Iraqi forces, impede the insurgency" plan.


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