Thursday, March 1, 2007
Elite officers in Iraq fear low morale, lack of troops and loss of political will
Thursday March 1, 2007
"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.......
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......
Steven Simon, the national security council's senior director for transnational threats during the Clinton administration, said a final meltdown in political and public backing was likely if the new strategy was not seen to be working quickly.
"The implosion of domestic support for the war will compel the disengagement of US forces. It is now just a matter of time," Mr Simon said in a paper written for the Council on Foreign Relations. "Better to withdraw as a coherent and at least somewhat volitional act than withdraw later in hectic response to public opposition... or to a series of unexpectedly sharp reverses on the ground," he said......"