ABC News has learned that Pentagon officials are considering a major strategic shift in Iraq, to move U.S. forces out of the dangerous Sunni-dominated al-Anbar province and join the fight to secure Baghdad.
The news comes as President Bush prepares to meet with Iraq’s president to discuss the growing sectarian violence.
There are now 30,000 U.S. troops in al-Anbar, mainly Marines, braving some of the fiercest fighting in Iraq. At least 1,055 Americans have been killed in this region, making al-Anbar the deadliest province for American troops.
And then what do we do with a province that can arm itself to the teeth and take the fight to our troops elsewhere? Just sit in Baghdad and hope that they won’t? I’m sure that this is an attempt to buy some time and ultimately leave the al-Anbar fight to the Iraqis. I’m just not sure that it will grant us the leverage that we’re looking for. Perhaps the most discouraging part of the whole article is this statment:
“If we are not going to do a better job doing what we are doing out [in al-Anbar], what’s the point of having them out there?” said a senior military official.
I guess that pretty much says it all.
This is generating a lot of email. Most of which is off the record. But everyone seems to be falling into one of two camps. You either see this as the first stage of a total withdrawal or think we may be preparing for a big (but likely final) push. I’m not terribly optimistic but I hope I’m surprised.
Gen. Pace says no way:
Asked specifically whether serious consideration is being given to the idea of abandoning Al-Anbar to put more U.S. forces in Baghdad, Pace bluntly replied “no.”
“You gave me a very straight question. I gave you a very straight answer. No. Why would we want to forfeit any part of Iraq to the enemy? We don’t,” he told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.
“It is our goal to turn over every province in Iraq to the Iraq security forces under the command and control of the Iraq government. That is our goal. There is no immediate thought to moving all coalition forces out of Al Anbar province and turning over right now today all security in Al Anbar to Iraqi security forces. It’s not on the table,” he added.
Hot Air: Devlin’s memo is causing some buzz around the ’sphere today, notably at INDC Journal, where Bill is getting set to embed with the Corps in Anbar assuming they’re still there come December, and at the Fourth Rail, where Bill Roggio fisks WaPo’s treatment of Devlin’s report in an attempt to show that they slanted the thing deliberately. He makes a good case, but the ABC story makes it considerably harder to believe.
The Captain’s Journal: For reasons that I cannot discuss at this time, I believe that there is some possibility, however remote it may seem to the reader, that we are cordoning off the Anbar Province (and in particular Ramadi), in order to prepare an assault later “Fallujah-style.” More Marine patrols where they are getting sniper attacks is not adding to security. We are either getting out, or we’re getting serious.
Kishkushim: Anbar province illustrates the pitfalls of the policy of regime change. The “failed province” is likely to become a staging area for attacks on US forces, the Iraqi central government, as well as on Saudi Arabia and Jordan. At the same time, as Iraq becomes more and more Iranian, the Saudis and others might be tempted to use the province as a buffer. In any case, it is unlikely that the flow of guns and fighters into and out of Anbar – no doubt much of them through Syria – will stop soon. It does not look like the US can afford to back any of the factions in the province; most of them would probably not be very interested in such a deal anyway. On the other hand, the US would probably be reluctant to support Shi’a efforts to crush the insurgents there, because this could very well play into Iran’s hands.\
Born at the Crest of the Empire: Appreciate this for a moment. On the same day that Bush blamed Al Qaeda for inciting the violence in Iraq, the Pentagon is contemplating abandoning the province from which they are launching attacks.
The Fourth Rail: Lost in the current debate over Iraq – civil war or sectarian violence, success or failure, increasing troops or strategic redeployment, victory or defeat – is the sea-change occurring in western Iraq. The U.S. military has coaxed a large majority of the Sunnis of Anbar province, perhaps one of the most sympathetic groups to al-Qaeda in the Middle East, to turn on al-Qaeda. The choice wasn’t difficult after the tribes saw what al-Qaeda had to offer – death, torture, Taliban like sharia, humiliation, destruction of commerce. The relationship and intelligence gained form operating in western Iraq will benefit the west during the Long War – if the U.S. doesn’t withdrawal precipitously and leave the Anbar tribes to the predations of al-Qaeda in Iraq.