Change of Plans for “The Surge”.

Short-Term “Surge” May Be Long-Term, Pentagon Said To Prepare Extended U.S. Troop Buildup, Unless Iraqi Leaders Fail To Meet Security Targets – CBS News
(CBS/AP) The Pentagon is laying the groundwork to extend the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq. At the same time, the administration is warning Iraqi leaders that the boost in forces could be reversed if political reconciliation is not evident by summer.

This approach underscores the central difficulty facing President Bush. If political progress is not possible in the relatively short term, then the justification for sending thousands more U.S. troops to Baghdad — and accepting the rising U.S. combat death toll that has resulted — will disappear. That in turn would put even more pressure on Bush to yield to the Democratic-led push to wind down the war in coming months.

If the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki does manage to achieve the political milestones demanded by Washington, then the U.S. military probably will be told to sustain the troop buildup much longer than originally foreseen — possibly well into 2008. Thus the early planning for keeping it up beyond late summer.

More than half of the extra 21,500 combat troops designated for Baghdad duty have arrived; the rest are due by June. Already it is evident that putting them in the most hotly contested parts of the capital is taking a toll. An average of 22 U.S. troops have died per week in April, the highest rate so far this year.

“This is certainly a price that we’re paying for this increased security,” Adm. William Fallon, the senior U.S. commander in the Middle East, told a House committee Wednesday. He also said the United States does not have “a ghost of a chance” of success in Iraq unless it can create “stability and security.”

The idea of the troop increase, originally billed by the administration as a temporary “surge,” is not to defeat the insurgency. That is not thought possible in the near-term. The purpose is to contain the violence — in particular, the sect-on-sect killings in Baghdad — long enough to create an environment in which Iraqi political leaders can move toward conciliation and ordinary Iraqis are persuaded of a viable future.

So far the results are mixed, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said this week during a visit to Iraq that he wants to see faster political progress by the Iraqis. “The clock is ticking,” he said, referring to the limited time the administration can pursue its strategy before the American public demands an end to the war.

Gates also said he told al-Maliki that the United States will not keep fighting indefinitely.

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