"Pentagon Cites Success Of Anti-U.S. Forces in Iraq" reads a front-page headline in today's Washington Post. "The Pentagon said yesterday that violence in Iraq soared this fall to its highest level on record," the Post reports, "and acknowledged that anti-U.S. fighters have achieved a â€˜strategic success' by unleashing a spiral of sectarian killings by Sunni and Shiite death squads that threatens Iraq's political institutions." The Post continued:
In its most pessimistic report yet on progress in Iraq, the Pentagon described a nation listing toward civil war, with violence at record highs of 959 attacks per week, declining public confidence in government and "little progress" toward political reconciliation.
"The violence has escalated at an unbelievably rapid pace," said Marine Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who briefed journalists on the report. "We have to get ahead of that violent cycle, break that continuous chain of sectarian violence. . . . That is the premier challenge facing us now."
The rapid spread of violence this year has thrown the government's future into jeopardy, Pentagon officials saidâ€¦.
Sattler implied that no number of U.S. or Iraqi troops would be great enough to quash the revenge killings. "I don't know how many forces you could push into a country, either U.S. or coalition or Iraqi forces, that could cover the entire country, where these death squads wouldn't find somebody," he said.
Indeed, the report documented that major U.S. and Iraqi military operations in the fall did not quell sectarian violence in Baghdad. Attacks dipped in August, but rebounded strongly in September after death squads adapted to the increased U.S. and Iraqi presence.
So, the present Pentagon strategy is failing. Violence is up, and confidence in the government is dropping. What to do? Former acting chief of staff and vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, Gen. Jack Keane, explains his plan http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2006/12/gen_keane_iraqs_a_ch... target=_blank>here - a surge and stay plan very different from the current Pentagon strategy, including the one employed in and around Baghdad.
The other day Sen. Harry Reid said he could support a short-term surge, which brought this response from fellow Democrat Sen. Jack Reed: ''Won't our adversaries simply adjust their tactics, wait us out and wait until we reduce again? So I think you'd have to ask very serious questions about the utility of this.'' Reed has a point, one that Keane also addressed in answering a question on whether a short-term troop surge would work:
No, it's impossible. It would take us a couple months just to get the forces in. What we have to do is clear the insurgents and the Shia death squads out of the area and then bring back the protection force. And then the protection force stays in the neighborhood, does not go back to the bases. And that takes time for the people to realize that this really is a secure situation. And bring the economic packages in and they begin to isolate the insurgents who are trying to sneak back in. Our problem in the past in Fallujah, in Samara, twice in Baghdad, has always been the same problem, we ran the insurgents out and we never put the protection force in to secure the people.