Only 6 months to win in Iraq

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Only 6 months to win in Iraq

Time is counting down and the will of the Western combatants is declining. The spectre of another Vietnam hangs over the forces in Iraq.

An elite team of officers advising the US commander, General David Petraeus, in Baghdad has concluded that they have six months to win the war in Iraq - or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.

The officers - combat veterans who are experts in counter-insurgency - are charged with implementing the "new way forward" strategy announced by George Bush on January 10. The plan includes a controversial "surge" of 21,500 additional American troops to establish security in the Iraqi capital and Anbar province.

But the team, known as the "Baghdad brains trust" and ensconced in the heavily fortified Green Zone, is struggling to overcome a range of entrenched problems in what has become a race against time, according to a former senior administration official familiar with their deliberations.

"They know they are operating under a clock. They know they are going to hear a lot more talk in Washington about 'Plan B' by the autumn - meaning withdrawal. They know the next six-month period is their opportunity. And they say it's getting harder every day," he said.

By improving security, the plan's short-term aim is to create time and space for the Iraqi government to bring rival Shia, Sunni and Kurd factions together in a process of national reconciliation, American officials say. If that works within the stipulated timeframe, longer term schemes for rebuilding Iraq under the so-called "go long" strategy will be set in motion.

But the next six months are make-or-break for the US military and the Iraqi government. The main obstacles confronting Gen Petraeus's team are:

Insufficient troops on the ground

A "disintegrating" international coalition

An anticipated increase in violence in the south as the British leave

Morale problems as casualties rise

A failure of political will in Washington and/or Baghdad.

"The scene is very tense," the former official said. "They are working round the clock. Endless cups of tea with the Iraqis. But they're still trying to figure out what's the plan. The president is expecting progress. But they're thinking, what does he mean? The plan is changing every minute, as all plans do."

More on the site
By netchicken: posted on 1-3-2007

The weak-kneed political will is the biggest threat to success.

The U.S. military and the U.S. political crowd is like a athletic body under the control of a cowardly and spiritually dead mind and heart.
By Thomas_Crowne: posted on 2-3-2007

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