February 26, 2006
Interesting, oft-depressing report on shifting U.S. strategy in Iraq set to splash on page one of tomorrow’s WaPo. The article describes three steps in the evolution of U.S. tactics, with the current focus on pushing out from Baghdad into the countryside to capture territory and then setting up checkpoints to hold it, one slow half-mile at a time.
The goal is to keep the jihadis out of Baghdad, although I’m not quite sure why; sounds like their presence couldn’t make things any worse:
The streets of the capital already feel as unsafe as at any time since the 2003 invasion. As one U.S. major put it, Baghdad now resembles a pure Hobbesian state where all are at war against all others and any security is self-provided.
Army Reserve Capt. A. Heather Coyne, an outspoken former White House counterterrorism official, said, “There is a total lack of security in the streets, partly because of the insurgents, partly because of criminals, and partly because the security forces can be dangerous to Iraqi citizens too.” When this reporter was permitted to review an in-depth classified intelligence summary of recent “significant acts” occurring in the capital, it appeared surprisingly incomplete, generally listing only two sorts of events: anything that affected U.S. troops, and the killing of Iraqis. Other actions affecting Iraqis — kidnappings, rapes, robberies, bombs that don’t kill anyone, and a variety of forms of intimidation — don’t appear to be on the U.S. military’s radar screen. As one soldier put it, that’s all “background noise.”
On the upside, Iraqi troops do seem to be making progress, especially re: intelligence-gathering. But where their true loyalties lie, and whether it’s too late for the U.S. military to implement the new strategy effectively, seems very much in doubt. Even — especially? — among the troops interviewed for the piece.