Monday, April 16, 2007

Keep Your Eye on Petraeus - Part Three

Last January, as Lt. General David Petraeus headed for Iraq to command the U.S. troops, I posted Keep Your Eye on Petraeus. Despite the apparent inconsistency between what Petraeus set out to do in Iraq and what he recommended be done when fighting terrorists in the “counterinsurgency” field manual, FM3-24, which had just been released, I wanted him to succeed so our troops could come home and the Iraqis could get on with their lives.

On March 20, I posted Part Two, in which I quoted Juan Cole of Informed Comment, who gave Petraeus credit for having the courage to say that if he couldn’t see a genuine improvement in the security situation by June, he would have an obligation to his own troops to say so.

Now, almost a month later, Robert Fisk* wrote a stunning article on April 11 in the UK Independent, Divide and Rule - American's Plan for Baghdad.

The opening sentence: “Revealed: a new counter-insurgency strategy to carve up the city into sealed areas. The tactic failed in Vietnam. So what chance does it have in Iraq?"

The article goes on to describe how vast areas of the city will be sealed off, “enclosing whole neighbourhoods with barricades and allowing only Iraqis with newly issued ID cards to enter.”

According to Fisk, “The latest security plan…was concocted by General David Petraeus, the current US commander in Baghdad....A former US officer in Vietnam who has a deep knowledge of General Petraeus's plans is skeptical of the possible results.”

Fisk also mentions counterinsurgency field manual, FM 3-24: “While not specifically advocating the 'gated communities' campaign, one of its principles is the unification of civilian and military activities, citing …the 'provincial reconstruction teams' in Afghanistan - a project widely condemned for linking military co-operation and humanitarian aid.”

Equally alarming: “But the campaign has far wider military ambitions than the pacification of Baghdad. It now appears that the US military intends to place as many as five mechanised brigades - comprising about 40,000 men - south and east of Baghdad, at least three of them positioned between the capital and the Iranian border. This would present Iran with a powerful - and potentially aggressive - American military force close to its border in the event of a US or Israeli military strike against its nuclear facilities later this year.”

I feel sorry for General Petraeus because he works for the Commander in Chief, George W. Bush. According to General John Sheehan of the Marine Corps, who wrote an op-ed in this morning’s Washington Post, Why I Declined to Serve (as “White House implementation manager” over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), “What I found in discussions with current and former members of this administration is that there is no agreed-upon strategic view of the Iraq problem or the region. In my view, there are essentially three strategies in play simultaneously.

The first I call ‘the Woody Hayes basic ground attack,’ which is basically gaining one yard -- or one city block -- at a time. Given unconstrained time and resources, one could control the outcome in Iraq and provide the necessary security to move on to the next stage of development.”

It’s obvious that General Sheehan doesn’t think much of this strategy. However, it sounds to me that General Petraeus may well be stuck with it, at least in Baghdad. And it sounds like Petraeus is implementing Bush's plans for a potential attack on Iran.

*I admire Fisk very much, having read two of his books, The Great War for Civilisation – The Conquest of the Middle East and Pity the Nation. He reports “from the ground” in the Middle East. I’m amazed he’s still alive.

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