National Security Watch: Bush's strategy for victory
In response to a growing chorus of complaints that the Bush administration has not clearly articulated its strategy in Iraq to the American publicincluding an appeal from the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committeethe National Security Council yesterday issued a 35-page document called "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." The heart of the strategy is defined as three "tracks" to help Iraqis build a "constitutional, representative government that respects civil rights and has security forces sufficient to maintain domestic order and keep Iraq from becoming a safe haven for terrorists."
The document defines the three components of the strategy as:
A political track, aimed at isolating the enemy, engaging those who can be wooed into the political process, and building governing institutions.
A security track, the "clear-hold-build" mantra that envisions clearing areas of enemy control, holding those areas once cleared, and building competent Iraqi security forces.
An economic track, which aims to restore the decrepit infrastructure, reform a statist economy, and build economic institutions.
Departing Iraq prematurely, the paper warns, would make the country "a safe haven for terrorists as Afghanistan once was." Some critics argue that at least parts of the western desert already are safe havens and that there are too few U.S. and competent Iraqi troops to successfully carry out the "clear-hold-build" part of the strategy.
In a press conference yesterday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, said that the number of insurgents' bomb attacks has gone up, even though they are causing fewer casualties. He attributed the lower lethality to improved measures to protect troops, but he added that the insurgents have repeatedly adapted and developed new techniques. If there is not great progress on the security front, however, should a large number of Sunnis vote in the December 15 elections and join the subsequent government, the political track may provide the best hope of an endgame for Washington.
Pace quote from the press conference: Interestingly, the numbers of IED explosions has gone up. The numbers of casualties from those explosions has stayed level and/or gone down a little bit, which means that our protection mechanismsour own force protection mechanismsare working. However, we still have a lot to do because this is a thinking enemy, and we need to be thinking through our tactics, techniques, and procedures as they change how they employ the IEDs.