All Iraq, All the Time

by Peter

21 September 2006, 0532 EDT

Question of the day: are we winning?


Asked point-blank whether the United States is winning in Iraq, Abizaid replied: “Given unlimited time and unlimited support, we’re winning the war.”

In other words–no. We don’t have unlimited time, and its rather clear that the Administration hasn’t offered unlimited resources to its Commanders in Iraq. We’ve never been close to 200,000 troops in-country. Though….

The general’s comments effectively ended hopes for a big troop withdrawal from Iraq this year, which had long been the military’s target for reducing forces. As violence has intensified over the spring and summer, military leaders and the Pentagon’s official assessment of the war have delivered increasingly tough characterizations of conditions in Iraq.

Now, six weeks before the U.S. midterm elections for which Iraq is a galvanizing issue, Abizaid is delivering the message that there will be no hasty exit from the costly conflict…

While dampening hopes of troop cuts this year, Abizaid left open the possibility that the U.S. troop level could be increased. “We’ll bring in more forces if we have to,” he said.

The military would draw, if necessary, on reserve forces already in Kuwait and elsewhere in the region before asking the Pentagon to send more U.S. troops, Abizaid said. He added that there is currently no plan to further extend the tour in Iraq of the Army’s 172nd Stryker Brigade. That unit had been scheduled to return home over the summer but was abruptly diverted to Baghdad in July when sectarian killings spiraled there.

Happy times, especially with the election just around the corner.

Kerry (finally–maybe 2 years too late) asked:

“What’s the endgame? We need a deadline to force Iraqis to stand up for Iraq and get our combat troops home,” said Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat.

The Bush end-game is (or was) we’ll stand down our forces as the Iraqis stand up thier forces. That’s not going so well either:

Senior Iraqi and American officials are beginning to question whether Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has the political muscle and decisiveness to hold Iraq together as it hovers on the edge of a full civil war.

Four months into his tenure, Mr. Maliki has failed to take aggressive steps to end the country’s sectarian strife because they would alienate fundamentalist Shiite leaders inside his fractious government who have large followings and private armies, senior Iraqi politicians and Western officials say. He is also constrained by the need to woo militant Sunni Arabs connected to the insurgency.

You can ask how on earth we got in this mess. You can read all about it in Sunday’s WaPo which has quite good book-excerpt article on life in the CPA-Green Zone. Dan Drezner now has a heated debate on whether it was the idea or the implementation of the idea that failed in Iraq (and if anyone from that class is reading, its a nice preview of what we’ll discuss that day).

But, of course the more pertinent question is in fact Kerry’s–where do we go from here? What’s the end game?

I have a really long answer to that, but perhaps I’ll let you all comment on it for a while and save that rambling rant for a subsequent post.

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