Vietnam-style hasty retreat, collapse!

Posted: February 28, 2007 in Middle East, News & Views, Politics, U.S., World News

Elite officers in Iraq fear low morale, lack of troops and loss of political will

Simon Tisdall
Thursday March 1, 2007
The Guardian

An elite team of officers advising the US commander, General David Petraeus, in Baghdad has concluded that they have six months to win the war in Iraq – or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.

baghdad10c.jpg

The officers – combat veterans who are experts in counter-insurgency – are charged with implementing the “new way forward” strategy announced by George Bush on January 10. The plan includes a controversial “surge” of 21,500 additional American troops to establish security in the Iraqi capital and Anbar province.

But the team, known as the “Baghdad brains trust” and ensconced in the heavily fortified Green Zone, is struggling to overcome a range of entrenched problems in what has become a race against time, according to a former senior administration official familiar with their deliberations.

“They know they are operating under a clock. They know they are going to hear a lot more talk in Washington about ‘Plan B’ by the autumn – meaning withdrawal. They know the next six-month period is their opportunity. And they say it’s getting harder every day,” he said.

By improving security, the plan’s short-term aim is to create time and space for the Iraqi government to bring rival Shia, Sunni and Kurd factions together in a process of national reconciliation, American officials say. [atw comment: usual wishful thinking]. If that works within the stipulated timeframe, longer term schemes for rebuilding Iraq under the so-called “go long” strategy will be set in motion.

But the next six months are make-or-break for the US military and the Iraqi government. The main obstacles confronting Gen Petraeus’s team are:

  • Insufficient troops on the ground
  • A “disintegrating” international coalition
  • An anticipated increase in violence in the south as the British leave
  • Morale problems as casualties rise
  • A failure of political will in Washington and/or Baghdad.

The president is expecting progress. But they’re thinking, what does he mean? The plan is changing every minute, as all plans do.”

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