CUT AND RUN?….Back before the war started, Pentagon planners believed that Iraqis would mainly view American forces as liberators, we would be able to install a local government fairly quickly, and by September there would be no more than 30,000 U.S. troops left in Iraq.
Things haven’t gone according to plan, of course, and early next year is when the crisis hits. Security is still tenuous even with 130,000 troops continuing to patrol the country, but that doesn’t matter: troop rotation schedules demand that divisions start getting sent home starting in February and March. So what to do?
The new “strategic clarity” being forced on the Bush administration seems to now have three parts:
Speed up the training of homegrown security forces. Are they getting enough training to be useful? Who knows. But we’re going to speed it up anyway because we don’t have much choice.
Reconstitute the Iraqi army. Paul Bremer’s decision to disband the army is now almost unanimously considered disastrous: it turned a lot of well-trained soldiers against us and stripped us of a force that could have helped with reconstruction and security.
Accelerate the handover of authority to Iraqis. Although we were dismissive when this was a French idea, Bremer and Co. now seem to think it’s a good idea to transfer power from the CPA to an Iraqi government as soon as possible.
So: hurry up the training of security forces, even if it is sort of slapdash; bring back the Iraqi army; and hand things over to an Iraqi government pronto. I’m starting to understand where the fear of “cut and run” is coming from.
That may or may not be a fair conclusion, but it’s easy to see how this stuff could lead some observers to believe that the Bushies are looking for a way to hand over responsibility for a deteriorating situation as fast as they can. Stay tuned….