Tuesday, October 24, 2006

This Is Working the Problem

All the recent talk of changing course in Iraq is ridiculous given that we are carrying out classic counter-insurgency by building up locals to fight the insurgents. We have about 685,000 Iraqi, American, Coalition, and contract security personnel in the field. The enemy cannot win against this if we just have some patience and let them work.

But the Panicky Americans of both sides of the aisle need a "change" fix and we may have provided it.

We won't have deadlines for our troops to leave but we will have deadlines for Iraqis to take responsibility for defeating the enemies inside Iraq:

"We are about 75 percent of the way through a three-step process in building those (Iraqi) forces. It is going to take another 12 to 18 months or so till I believe the Iraqi security forces are completely capable of taking over responsibility for their own security that's still coupled with some level of support from us," [General George] Casey said.

With violence in Iraq at staggering levels, the United States is battling on both the military and political fronts to tame growing chaos in regions where Sunni insurgent violence now is compounded by sectarian killing.

Khalilzad said the Iraqi government had agreed by the end of the year to develop a timeline for progress. At the same time, he declared, the United States needed to redouble its efforts to succeed in Iraq.

"Iraq leaders have agreed to a timeline for making the hard decisions needed to resolve these issues," Khalilzad said. "Iraqi leaders must step up to achieve key political and security milestones on which they've agreed."

As the Iraqis meet their timetables, we can then decide whether it is prudent to pull back troops rather than reversing the order and pulling back troops while compelling the Iraqis to succeed or die based on our deadlines.

If the Iraqis have trouble reaching these deadlines, we can focus our efforts on specific tasks for getting them to that benchmark, rather than just saying that overall the Iraqis aren't ready for us to leave.

And with the focus on Iraqi success, this approach denies the enemy cheap victories of declaring successes every time our strength in Iraq goes down.

It is--dare I say it--nuanced.

This is hopefully enough change to satisfy the edgy among us without distracting us from the persistence needed to defeat a well-funded and bloody-minded insurgency.