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Friday, May 25, 2007

the Joint Campaign Plan Redesign Team: the Petraeus/Crocker plan

United States Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and General David H. Petraeus have been selected by the Bush Administration to chair the Joint Campaign Plan Redesign Team (a name so boring and cumbersome that it was surely intended to create a 'hey, nothing to see here, move along' effect.) Most of what is publicly known about this project, which is due to conclude its reporting May 31st, comes from this May 23rd Washington Post Article by Ann Scott Tyson:

Top U.S. commanders and diplomats in Iraq are completing a far-reaching campaign plan for a new U.S. strategy, laying out military and political goals and endorsing the selective removal of hardened sectarian actors from Iraq's security forces and government. The classified plan, scheduled to be finished by May 31, is a joint effort between Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American general in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker.[...]

The overarching aim of the plan, which sets goals for the end of this year and the end of 2008, is more political than military: to negotiate settlements between warring factions in Iraq from the national level down to the local level. In essence, it is as much about the political deals needed to defuse a civil war as about the military operations aimed at quelling a complex insurgency, said officials with knowledge of the plan.

The groundwork for the campaign plan was laid out in an assessment formulated by Petraeus's senior counterinsurgency adviser, David J. Kilcullen, with about 20 military officers, State Department officials and other experts in Baghdad known as the Joint Strategic Assessment Team. Their report, finished last month, was approved by Petraeus and Crocker as the basis of a formal campaign plan that will assign specific tasks for military commands and civilian agencies in Iraq.


In sum, the report of the Joint Campaign Plan Redesign Team, when it is delivered on May 31st, will lay out a two-year time line for the Bush Administration's political and military goals in Iraq. Per Tyson's article, the new plan has three main emphases and forms a thoroughgoing rebuttal of General George Casey's efforts to aggressively hand control of Iraq's security and government to the Iraqi's themselves. (In other words, that effort failed.)

The first emphasis of the new plan is to forgo Casey's previous focus on pursuing insurgents and training the Iraqi military and police corps to be self-sufficient and to focus instead on using tens of thousands of additional US troops to directly protect Iraqi civilians in Baghdad and al-Anbar province, the Bush "surge." The second emphasis is for United States personnel to actively work within the Iraqi government to shore up and build that central government's capacity over an 18 to 24 month "bridge" period.

Finally, the plan intends to purge Iraq's leadership of bad actors and sectarian elements intent on destabilising Iraq for their own ends. To do this, Petraeus and Crocker are conducting outreach across a wide range of segments within Iraq's political landscape, including sectarian elements who have been hostile to the United States occupation, in the hopes that those hostile elements will move from resisting the US occupation and fighting other Iraqis in exchange for a place at the bargaining table in a more stable Iraq (an Iraq, it must be added, that would still be occupied by the United States.) It is not clear, however, from the Tyson article how the "purge" side of this, eg. dealing with the non-cooperative bad actors in Iraq, will function. (For an indication of what might be in store, see this article on the IISS report on the Baghdad Surge.)

In a nutshell, where the Bush Administration had previously advocated the now-failed "as the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down" policy in Iraq, what we know of the Petraeus/Crocker plan, which is somewhat more complicated, could be characterized this way: four years on, the Iraqis haven't stood up and have failed at running their government, which, by the way, we do not trust, so, in response, the United States will send in tens of thousands more American troops to patrol Baghdad and al-Anbar in a massive counter-insurgency and stabilisation effort, commit our embassy to filling the operational holes in the Iraqi government for a two year "bridge period" and commit the United States to an attempt to weed out the good from the bad actors within Iraq's sectarian elements all the while fighting foreign jihadists, purging Iraqi bad actors from the scene (without defining much what that "purge" will mean) and preventing Iraq from slipping into full scale civil war.

The even shorter version: when Bush said "as the Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down" he neglected to mention the "Plan B" that "if the Iraqis don't stand up, we'll send more troops to prop them up, run their government for them for two years and try to calm their civil war from our embassy."

It's worth noting just what a contrast this is to President Bush's previous rhetoric. On November 19th, 2005, President Bush clearly enunciated his now-failed policy in a speech to US troops stationed at the Osan Air Base in South Korea:

[W]e're making steady progress. With every passing month, more and more Iraqi forces are standing up, and the Iraqi military is gaining new capabilities and new confidence. At the time of our Fallujah operations a year ago, there were only a few Iraqi army battalions in combat. Today there are more than 90 Iraqi army battalions fighting the terrorists, along with our forces. American and Iraqi troops are conducting major assaults to clear out enemy fighters in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq. Iraqi police and security forces are helping clear the terrorists from their strongholds. They're holding onto areas we've cleared and are preventing the enemy from returning. Our strategy can be summed up this way: As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.

If that speech presents a glaring contrast to the current state of Iraq, in particular its "90 Iraqi army battalions fighting the terrorists" and its now abandoned emphasis on Iraqis "holding onto areas we've cleared," this May 2004 speech before students at the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania presents in even greater measure how deeply this new strategy reflects the failure to achieve Bush's previously stated goals in Iraq. This speech is from almost exactly three years ago during a Presidential campaign year; and, given what's followed, we have to remind ourselves that this major speech and its ideas were supposed to represent a turning point in Iraq in 2004:

Our coalition has a clear goal, understood by all -- to see the Iraqi people in charge of Iraq for the first time in generations. America's task in Iraq is not only to defeat an enemy, it is to give strength to a friend - a free, representative government that serves its people and fights on their behalf. And the sooner this goal is achieved, the sooner our job will be done.

There are five steps in our plan to help Iraq achieve democracy and freedom. We will hand over authority to a sovereign Iraqi government, help establish security, continue rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, encourage more international support, and move toward a national election that will bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people.

The first of these steps will occur next month, when our coalition will transfer full sovereignty to a government of Iraqi citizens who will prepare the way for national elections. On June 30th, the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist, and will not be replaced. The occupation will end, and Iraqis will govern their own affairs. America's ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, will present his credentials to the new president of Iraq. Our embassy in Baghdad will have the same purpose as any other American embassy, to assure good relations with a sovereign nation.

The Petraeus/Crocker plan is, in no uncertain terms, a complete rebuttal of both of the above statements. The plan extends for at least two years into the future even the fig leaf of the Iraqi government or military taking any action for or by itself without significant United States intervention. It is both a rejection of the premise of General Casey's entire effort in Iraq and a quiet backing away from Paul Bremer's policy of debaathification as well. Four years into the war in Iraq, the United States has given up all talk of Iraqi self-sufficiency, freedom and democracy. In fact, for all of Bush's previous talk of "democracy," the administration does not much trust the democratically elected Iraqi government. As Ann Tyson reports, the Petraeus/Crocker plan both props up and works around Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, who is viewed by Petraeus and Crocker "as beholden to narrow sectarian interests." For all the President's talk of "victory" and "defeat," the unstated United States goal in Iraq now seems to be intervention with the intention of preventing an all out Iraqi civil war.

That change of goals and utter reduction of our expectations has not stopped General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, per the President's instructions to their Joint Campaign Plan Redesign Team, from charting out two more years of the US occupation of Iraq. And two more years of United States occupation is the one thing that the Petraeus/Crocker plan most certainly will mean, whatever name it eventually goes by, whatever figments of withdrawal are suspended before the public, and whatever the ultimate success or failure of its strategies.

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2 Comments:

  • For additional interesting background material try this US News and World Report essay: the Petraeus Factor.

    Including this very relevant quote:

    In this diplomatic gambit, Petraeus's key partner is the new U.S. ambassador, Middle East veteran Ryan Crocker. The two have forged a close bond in contrast to the often toxic relations between the top civilian and military U.S. officials in Iraq in the past. "We are determined that this has to be one mission, one team. That's why my office is right across from his," says Petraeus. As Crocker tells U.S. News: "Lord knows where this is going, but he and I are committed to getting there together."

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 1:31 AM  

  • For more source material of this piece read this essay on the Baghdad Surge, a report of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 6:24 PM  

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