Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Joint Campaign Plan For U.S. Operations in Iraq Through End of 2009

The U.S. military does not have even a rudimentary logistical plan for an orderly phased withdrawal from Iraq, but they do have a written plan for operations extending through the end of 2009.

The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. "Sustainable security" is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document.

The detailed document, known as the Joint Campaign Plan, is an elaboration of the new strategy President Bush signaled in January when he decided to send five additional American combat brigades and other units to Iraq. That signaled a shift from the previous strategy, which emphasized transferring to Iraqis the responsibility for safeguarding their security.

That new approach put a premium on protecting the Iraqi population in Baghdad, on the theory that improved security would provide Iraqi political leaders with the breathing space they needed to try political reconciliation.

The latest plan, which covers a two-year period, does not explicitly address troop levels or withdrawal schedules. It anticipates a decline in American forces as the "surge" in troops runs its course later this year or in early 2008. But it nonetheless assumes continued American involvement to train soldiers, act as partners with Iraqi forces and fight terrorist groups in Iraq, American officials said.

The goals in the document appear ambitious, given the immensity of the challenge of dealing with die-hard Sunni insurgents, renegade Shiite militias, Iraqi leaders who have made only fitful progress toward political reconciliation, as well as Iranian and Syrian neighbors who have not hesitated to interfere in Iraq's affairs. And the White House's interim assessment of progress, issued n July 12, is mixed.

But at a time when critics at home are defining patience in terms of weeks, the strategy may run into the expectations of many lawmakers for an early end to the American mission here.

The plan, developed by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior American commander, and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador, has been briefed to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. William J. Fallon, the head of the Central Command. It is expected to be formally issued to officials here this week.

The plan envisions two phases. The "near-term" goal is to achieve "localized security" in Baghdad and other areas no later than June 2008. It envisions encouraging political accommodations at the local level, including with former insurgents, while pressing Iraq's leaders to make headway on their program of national reconciliation.

The "intermediate" goal is to stitch together such local arrangements to establish a broader sense of security on a nationwide basis no later than June 2009.

"The coalition, in partnership with the government of Iraq, employs integrated political, security, economic and diplomatic means, to help the people of Iraq achieve sustainable security by the summer of 2009," a summary of the campaign plan states. ...

To develop the plan, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker assembled a Joint Strategic Assessment Team, which sought to define the conflict and outline the elements of a new strategy. It included officers like Col. H. R. McMaster, the field commander who carried out the successful "clear, hold and build" operation in Tal Afar and who wrote a critical account of the Joint Chiefs of Staff role during the Vietnam War; Col. John R. Martin, who teaches at the Army War College and was a West Point classmate of General Petraeus; and David Kilcullen, an Australian counterinsurgency expert who has a degree in anthropology.

State Department officials, including Robert Ford, an Arab expert and the American ambassador to Algeria, were also involved. So were a British officer and experts outside government like Stephen D. Biddle, a military expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The team determined that Iraq was in a "communal struggle for power," in the words of one senior officer who participated in the effort. Adding to the problem, the new Iraqi government was struggling to unite its disparate factions and to develop the capability to deliver basic services and provide security.

Extremists were fueling the violence, as were nations like Iran, which they concluded was arming and equipping Shiite militant groups, and Syria, which was allowing suicide bombers to cross into Iraq.

Like the Baker-Hamilton commission, which issued its report last year, the team believed that political, military and economic efforts were needed, including diplomatic discussions with Iran, officials said. There were different views about how aggressive to be in pressing for the removal of overtly sectarian officials, and several officials said that theme was toned down somewhat in the final plan.

The plan itself was written by the Joint Campaign Redesign Team, an allusion to the fact that the plan inherited from General Casey was being reworked. Much of the redesign has already been put into effect, including the decision to move troops out of large bases and to act as partners more fully with the Iraqi security forces.

The overarching goal, an American official said, is to advance political accommodation and avoid undercutting the authority of the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. While the plan seeks to achieve stability, several officials said it anticipates that less will be accomplished in terms of national reconciliation by the end of 2009 than did the plan developed by General Casey.

The plan also emphasizes encouraging political accommodation at the local level. The command has established a team to oversee efforts to reach out to former insurgents and tribal leaders. It is dubbed the Force Strategic Engagement Cell, and is overseen by a British general. In the terminology of the plan, the aim is to identify potentially "reconcilable" groups and encourage them to move away from violence.


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