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[casi] Iraqification-A Losing Strategy

1) Sending in the Iraqis
2) Iraqification-A Losing Strategy



      Bill Berkowitz

      Sending in the Iraqis
      Bush Administration strategy for post-war Iraq is broke. Will sending
poorly-trained Iraqis to danger zones fix it?

      November 2nd was the bloodiest day since the US began its occupation
of Iraq. A US Chinook helicopter was shot down in central Iraq as it carried
troops headed for R&R. The attack, by a shoulder-fired missile that killed
19 soldiers and wounded 21, was the deadliest single strike against American
troops since March 23rd, when 28 soldiers were killed in assorted attacks.
      Because of the massive increase in the number of guerrilla attacks and
suicide bombings over the past several weeks, defense and intelligence
officials have been debating whether intelligence officers now searching for
WMD should be "reassign[ed] to a search for the culprits behind a wave of
deadly attacks," the Associated Press recently reported. Pardon me, T.S.
Eliot, but David Kay's hunt for Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction
may soon be ending with little more than a whimper and very little bang for
our bucks.

      The Red Cross is pulling its personnel out of Baghdad and the UN has
told its staff to pack its bags and leave the country -- at least for the
present time. Spain is withdrawing most of its diplomatic staff. Two judges
have been killed; local governors and mayor's offices as well as police
stations have been shot up. As of November 6, U.S. casualty figures since
March 20 stood at 381 -- 254 from hostile actions and 127 from accidents and
non-combat-related incidents -- and there have been more than 2100 wounded,
an average of more than 9.5 wounded a day.

      As the Web blog Baghdad Burning recently pointed out, there are
"several groups orchestrating the attacks," and the techniques used "range
from primitive, to professional." While "some of the explosive devices...
are home-made and uncomplicated, obviously made by amateurs... [other
attacks] against Coalition headquarters -- like at the Baghdad International
Airport and some of the palaces where high-ranking army personnel are
located," are more high-tech. "On some of these places, like the airport,
missiles are being used which is an indicator that the source of the attack
is a highly trained group."

      Sending in the canaries

      "We will seek ways to accelerate the transfer of authority to the
government of Iraq," Paul Bremer, the US overseer in Iraq told reporters
during his first press conference in Baghdad, a day before the missile
attack on the US helicopter. Bremer, according to an AFP report, "pledged
that the US-led coalition would speed up the handover of political and
security powers to Iraqis."

      Bremer promised to "'double the size of the Iraqi civil defense corps
by March' and to complete the core training of the Iraqi army and a
professional Iraqi police force in one year, instead of the two years as
initially planned. 'We will expand the number of Iraqis engaged in guarding
the country's borders and infrastructure. In all, we will have over 200,000
Iraqis involved in their own security forces by September next year,'" he

      The US goal is for the country's 50,000-strong police force to reach
75,000 and the new Iraqi army, now consisting of only one battalion, to
reach 40,000 men by next September. The Iraqi border police should reach
25,000. The civil defense forces, now at around 7,800, should reach about
25,000, while the 20,000-strong Facilities Protection Services, which guards
civilian installations and infrastructure, should climb to about 30,000,
coalition officials said. Bremer said that "Iraqis bring vital language and
cultural skills to the task of fighting terrorism."

      "One of the biggest advantages of getting Iraqis more involved in
their own security is that the Iraqis will be better able to tell who the
bad guys are. They are going to be out in the streets, they will recognize
the strangers, they will hear different accents, see different customs, see
different ways of dressing and be able to help us identify the strangers and
particularly the foreign fighters and the terrorists," he said. It appears
that "getting more Iraqis involved" may entail incorporating thousands of
soldiers from Hussein's disbanded army, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
recently said.

      Of course there would have to be a thorough weeding process so that
former Hussein loyalists were not included in the mix. Are you confident
that US officials in charge of the chaotic situation in Iraq will have time
or intelligence capacity to perform the weeding?

      Bremer reiterated a strategy that National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice's newly constituted Iraq Stabilization Group appears to
have devised. Unfortunately, it comes awful close to sounding like the
"canaries in the mineshaft" type of strategy. Translated, it seems to be:
"Give 'em a uniform, get 'em some guns, and get 'em out on the streets of
Baghdad." The "'em" in this case are the thousands of young Iraqis in need
of jobs and desperate enough to serve as potential cannon fodder.

      President Bush is anxious to see the training of Iraqi security forces
accelerated so they can assume their positions at a much faster clip:
"President Bush's desire to speed up -- yet again -- the rate at which
Iraqis are put on the streets to supplement the 130,000 American troops in
Iraq was the dominant subject at [last week's]... meeting of the National
Security Council in the White House Situation Room," the New York Times

      According to Times reporters David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, the
Pentagon's plan -- which is still under development -- involves giving a few
weeks of training in Iraq and Jordan to "thousands of Iraqis who are now
acting essentially as security guards -- at oil operations, pipelines and
other potential terrorist targets... They would then be put on the front
lines as militiamen, chiefly in the Sunni-dominated area northwest of
Baghdad where the attacks have intensified the most in recent days,
officials say. Later, their old jobs would be filled with recruits."

      "The new plans are... driven by two political realities," the Times
reported, "only a trickle of new allied foreign troops will be coming into
Iraq to bolster the American-led occupation, and soon Mr. Bush will have to
begin spending the $87 billion" Congress approved for military operations
and reconstruction.

      If there is chaos and violence on the streets of Baghdad, Falluja,
Mosul and other cities now, imagine what might happen when brave but scared
and hastily-trained 18- and 19-year-old Iraqis are armed and dumped into
trouble spots. "Does anyone think that such a ragtag military could beat the
insurgency where American troops are failing?" Fareed Zakaria asked in a
recent New York Times op-ed piece.

      Zakaria: "When we speak of sending 'Iraqis' on raids into the Sunni
Triangle, who would these soldiers be? Sunnis? They might not want to hunt
down Baathists, or might easily be bought off. Shiites and Kurds? That would
galvanize the Sunni populations in support of the guerrillas. If the goal is
to stabilize Iraq, fomenting intergroup violence might not be the best

      Recent reports have US officials vacillating over whether Saddam
Hussein is playing a major role in coordinating and directing attacks
against US forces. According to the New York Times, "a leadership role by...
Hussein would go far beyond anything previously acknowledged by the Bush
administration, which has sought in its public remarks to portray the former
Iraqi leader as being on the run and irrelevant."

      At his press conference Bremer once again claimed that the capture or
killing of Hussein "is our top priority. Will we soon see "Operation Wipe
Out Saddam?" Does Team Bush really believe the resistance will end if
Hussein is captured or killed?

      Two late breaking developments:

      UPI reported that due to the failure of the US to get enough troops
from other countries, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld "has approved the
activation of more than 100,000 new troops for deployment in Iraq early next
year." These troops will include "the call-up of some 40,000 National Guard
and Reserve troops for one-year tours of duty."

      According to the New York Times, "proposals to augment state-trained
troops with paramilitary forces affiliated with Kurdish and Shia political
parties are only beginning to be studied, according to members of Iraq's
governing council and Dan Senor, a senior adviser to L. Paul Bremer III, the
chief administrator of Iraq."

      The outlook for the near future? More guerrilla attacks. More suicide
bombings. More US soldiers killed and wounded. More ill-advised strategies.
Does anyone around here know what the administration is thinking from one
day to the next?



      Iraqification-A Losing Strategy

      If the U.S. footprint is reduced, guerrillas will not stop fighting.
They will probably step up their attacks on the Iraqi Army and politicians


            Nov. 10 issue -  Iraq, everyone agrees, is not Vietnam. In
Vietnam the United States lost dozens of troops for every one it is losing
in Iraq. The Viet Cong guerrillas had broad popular support. They were being
supplied by great powers. And so on.

             BUT THERE IS one sense in which the analogy might hold.
Frustrated by the lack of quick progress on the ground and fading political
support at home, Washington is now latching on to the idea that a quick
transfer of power to local troops and politicians would make things better.
Or at any rate, it would lower American casualties. It was called
Vietnamization; today it's called Iraqification. And then as now, it is less
a winning strategy than an exit strategy.

             Everyone seems to be in favor of Iraqification. The president
has urged an accelerated training schedule for the Iraqi Army. Secretary
Rumsfeld says that more Iraqi troops, and not Americans, would be the best
answer to his problems. Senators and congressman from both parties cheer the
idea, as do most columnists. On the political side, the administration has
speeded up its timetable to transfer power. While once it spoke of a
three-year process of constitution-writing and institution-building, now it
wants to hold elections and turn things over in 18 months at most. American
troops would be under 100,000 by next summer and fall under 50,000 by 2005.
Even the French love the new, improved schedule. What could possibly be
wrong with it?

              This new impulse has less to do with Iraqi democracy than with
American democracy. The president wants to show that Iraqis are governing
their affairs and Americans are coming home in time for his re-election. But
it might not work out that way.

              Putting more Iraqi soldiers and policemen on the ground makes
sense. By taking care of routine policing and security, they will free up
the American Army to conduct raids, pursue leads and fight the guerrillas.
But the desperation to move faster and faster is going to have bad results.
Accelerating the training schedule (which has already been accelerated twice
before) will only produce an ineffective Iraqi Army and police force. Does
anyone think that such a ragtag military could beat the insurgency where
American troops are failing?

              When we speak of sending "Iraqis" on raids into the Sunni
Triangle, who would these soldiers be? Sunnis? They might not want to hunt
down Baathists, or might easily be bought off. Shiites and Kurds? That would
galvanize the Sunni populations in support of the guerrillas. If the goal is
to stabilize Iraq, fomenting intragroup violence might not be the best path.

              If the American footprint is reduced, it will not make the
guerrillas stop fighting. ("Hey, Saddam, we've scared the Americans back
into their compounds. Let's ease up now and give them a break.") On the
contrary, the rebels will step up their attacks on the Iraqi Army and local
politicians, whom they already accuse of being collaborators. Iraqification
could easily produce more chaos, not less.

              The idea of a quick transfer of political power is even more
dangerous. The Iraqi state has gone from decades of Stalinism to total
collapse. And there is no popular national political party or movement to
hand power to. A quick transfer of authority to a weak central government
will only encourage the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds to retain de facto
autonomy in their regions and fragment the country.

              For the neoconservatives in the Pentagon, a quick transfer
fulfills a pet obsession, installing into power the Iraqi exiles led by
Ahmad Chalabi. Last week The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted a senior
administration official as saying, "There are some civilians at the Pentagon
who've decided that we should turn this over to someone else and get out as
fast as possible." But every indication we have is that the exiles do not
have broad popular support.

              There are no shortcuts out. Iraq is America's problem. It
could have been otherwise, but in the weeks after the war the
administration, drunk with victory, refused to share power with the world.
Now there can be only one goal-success. The first task of winning the peace
in Iraq is winning the war-which is still being waged in the Sunni
heartland. And winning it might take more troops, or different kinds of
troops (send back the Marines). It might take a mixture of military force
and bribes-to win over some Sunni leaders. But whatever it takes, the United
States must do it. Talk about a drawdown of troops sends exactly the wrong
message to the guerrillas. In the words of one North Vietnamese general, "We

knew that if we waited, one day the Americans would have to go home."

              "The central problem in Vietnam," says Brookings's Kenneth
Pollack, "was that we had a corrupt and ineffective local government that
did not inspire either the allegiance or the confidence of the Vietnamese
people. Whatever happened militarily became secondary to this fundamental
political reality." We don't have that problem in Iraq. But a hasty
Iraqification will almost certainly produce it.

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