The President’s Iraq Gambit

1. In case you missed it in the MSM reporting, there is a definite timetable in the President’s Iraq speech

To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq’s provinces by November.
This implies that the President is counting on Iraqi army and national police force training to be completed in a little under a year.
2. To achieve the training goal, the President is ordering an increase in the number of American advisers embedded directly into Iraqi units…
In keeping with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, we will increase the embedding of American advisers in Iraqi Army units, and partner a coalition brigade with every Iraqi Army division. We will help the Iraqis build a larger and better-equipped army, and we will accelerate the training of Iraqi forces, which remains the essential U.S. security mission in Iraq.
I know of at least one respected military affairs analyst (Barry McCaffrey) who thinks an effective Iraqi army can be built up an in about a year, but that it should be done with fewer but more specialized advisers than we are currently using. I know of another respected military affairs analyst (Eliot Cohen) who thinks that increasing the number of advisers is a necessary step forward in building up effective Iraqi forces. Obviously, President Bush has chosen the path suggested by Cohen.
3. The goal in building up the national Iraqi army, beyond the obvious goal of creating a force that can provide physical security, is to create a powerful, respected and even feared institution within Iraq that possesses a truly national identity…
The Iraqi government will appoint a military commander and two deputy commanders for their capital. The Iraqi government will deploy Iraqi Army and National Police brigades across Baghdad’s nine districts. When these forces are fully deployed, there will be 18 Iraqi Army and National Police brigades committed to this effort, along with local police. These Iraqi forces will operate from local police stations — conducting patrols and setting up checkpoints, and going door-to-door to gain the trust of Baghdad residents.
The subtext here is that it’s time to give up on the existing local police forces, who have demonstrated that they can’t really be counted on to do anything useful, and probably make the situation worse, and place primary responsibility for local policing in the hands of the national government.
The premise is that stability can only come to Iraq when a national army or national police force capable of instilling a sense of discipline and professionalism and national (versus sectarian) pride into its members becomes the institution that attracts the best, most motivated potential soldiers from the pool of Iraqi males. Right now, that’s not happening. Too many young Iraqi men find joining a local militia or working with a foreign terror cell more rewarding than working with the national government. The President is gambling that the beginnings of an Iraqi national army/national police force that commands more respect than Iraq’s sectarian militias and attracts more and better recruits than the militias can be created in under a year, despite everything that has gone wrong over the past three years.
Like many others, my impression of the President’s speech is that is was actually pretty good (not great), but would have been even better if delivered two or three years ago.

Show your support for Anchor Rising with a 25-cent-per-day subscription.