THE JOINT CAMPAIGN PLAN was developed and has been approved by the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and Multinational Force-Iraq as a top-level strategic planning document for both the Embassy and Multinational Force-Iraq missions. The Joint Campaign Plan certainly does not contain all the answers for the U.S. strategy in Iraq, but it is a living document and will be modified and amended as the situation there continues to develop. Still, the original strategy is a comprehensive plan that has both near-term and long-term goals in four critical areas--political, security, economic and diplomatic.
Since his installation as the Multinational Force commander in Iraq, General Petraeus has repeatedly stated that the solution in Iraq is not completely military. And, with the Washington clock ticking faster than the Baghdad clock, accomplishments in the Iraqi political arena have become the paramount issue. Thus, the main emphasis of this new plan will be along the political line, with supporting efforts in the other three areas.
Colonel Steve Boylan, General Petraeus' personal Public Affairs Officer, pointed out to me in a recent set of emails that the Joint Campaign Plan is focused on "efforts to build governance capacity, communicate strategically, spread the rule of law and bring about reconciliation between competing factions." The initial focus will remain on bringing security to the people of Iraq, while assisting Iraqi reconciliation wherever possible.
The surge is part of the overall strategy defined within the Joint Campaign Plan. Additional forces were brought in to Iraq to bring stability and security to the Iraqi people, primarily in Baghdad. The original plan was modified as the Coalition forces started clearing neighborhoods--insurgents, or "squirters," left Baghdad and moved into the surrounding belts. Operation Phantom Thunder has worked to secure not only Baghdad, but the surrounding areas in Babil, Diyala, and Salah ad-Din provinces. Now, with the surge forces in place, the Coalition's attention is turning to reconciliation.
Colonel Boylan went on to say that "The campaign is intended to maintain a sustainable security capability throughout Iraq, starting with local security We are trying to set conditions for them to negotiate a power-sharing agreement where they decide to quit fighting."
The nature of this conflict is complex. It is a "communal struggle" for power and survival. There still remain elements of a Sunni-based insurgency and a radical Islamist terrorism intent on winning their cause through violence and intimidation. If that were not enough, Iraq's neighbors, particularly Syria and Iran, are stoking the fire, while the government in Baghdad is "chronically unable to fulfill its obligations to its citizens."
This unique conflict requires a unique solution. Colonel Boylan stated, "One way to end the conflict would be to let them fight it out. The other way is to negotiate a power-sharing agreement..." The Joint Campaign Plan is focusing on power-sharing and reconciling the reconcilables. The military element of the plan will deal with the irreconcilables.
Picture several guys fighting; none of them can stop or they risk getting "popped" by one of their opponents. Such is the case with the several competing factions in Iraq. Our forces have to reach in and separate them. Once that happens, other elements of coalition power can be applied. This is where the political, economic and diplomatic facets of the Joint Campaign Plan will come into play. By addressing each "fighter's" concerns in a secure environment, the plan aims to "convince them to stop fighting on a more-or-less permanent basis."
Anbar Province stands out as an example of what we might be able to do throughout Iraq in the coming months. In 2005, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Starling characterized the province as a cross between the "Wild West" and "Mad Max." As late as last year, some politicians and media commentators were claiming that Anbar was a lost cause. But then, last fall, the sheikhs of Anbar began to turn on al Qaeda. The sheikhs went to the U.S. Marines and asked for help in ridding their neighborhoods of the al Qaeda scourge. They brought their sons to serve in the Iraqi Army and local police forces so that they could fight al Qaeda themselves and eventually maintain their own security.
Lieutenant Shawn Mercer, a Public Affairs Officer for the coalition commanding general in Anbar Province, Major General W. E. Gaskin, told me in a recent correspondence, "On July 7th, about 200 municipal leaders and professionals gathered for the Anbar Covenant, or 'Promise of the People' Conference in Ramadi, hosted by the Alwani Tribe. They all pledged to fight al-Qaeda and they pledged to support the Coalition." They pledged to rebuild their society and to do it all through the Iraqi government and the rule of law. And the Marines pledged to provide a protective umbrella until the people are able to maintain their own security. On the next day, Mercer continued, "the Albu Issa tribe hosted tribal and municipal leaders for the Thawr al Haq, or 'Uprising of the Right,' conference in Fallujah." Again, "this gathering was held to build cohesiveness and celebrate unity with Coalition Forces and the provincial and national governments. Attendees pledged to fight terrorist forces across Iraq." Even with an ever-present al Qaeda threat, the cities of Anbar are all now relatively safe places to live and work.
Still, success in Iraq is anywhere but certain. It is dependent on the Iraqis coming to the realization that they can't achieve their goals through fighting and that the competing forces are Iraqi first and Sunni, Shia, Kurd, and Christian second. If this weren't enough, General Petraeus is working to bring peace to Iraq with a limited number of forces and a timeline that is much shorter than he would like.
The new Joint Campaign Plan addresses all these issues and its implementation will attempt to return stability to the Iraqi government and people. Colonel Boylan is quick to caution, "There are no absolutes in this endeavor, but rest assured we are all in, and are and will do all that we can to ensure continued progress for a successful conclusion."
Richard S. Lowry is the author of Marines in the Garden of Eden. He served in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service from 1967-1975.