Photo of a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman conducts a patrol in Haqlaniyah, Iraq. Unbowed by public doubts, President George W. Bush plans to announce on Wednesday that he will send about 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq as part of a long-delayed shift in strategy in the unpopular war.
Tony Snow conferred by telephone with conservative bloggers this afternoon to preview what President Bush will say tonight. Essentially, the president plans to send an additional 20,000 troops or so troops to Baghdad and about 4,000 additional troops to Anbar province. Baghdad will be divided into nine districts. We will station one batallion (about 600 troops) in each district. The Iraqis will station one brigade (a larger unit) in each. We will have a presence in the neighborhoods on a 24/7 basis. This is a switch from the approach we’ve been using, under which we roll our folks into the neighborhoods in the morning and return them to their barracks at night.
The rules of engagement will allow us to go after everyone we need to go after. The Mahdi army, for example, will not be off limits. Snow pointed to statements from Iraq’s president confirming that the Iraqi government is on board with this.
In Anbar, our additional forces will try to consolidate recent gains. According to Snow, tribal leaders there have turned strongly against al Qaeda, and want us to send in more forces with which to rout them. President Bush will oblige.
The president will also address Iran and Syria in his speech. However, it does not appear that he’ll get very specific tonight. Similarly, he will mention but not focus on securing the border with Syria.
Brett McQuirk, the president’s national security point man on Iraq, said that the administration considered the approach I have advocated — focusing on killing bad guys in the western areas and leaving Baghdad largely to the Iraqis to police (or not). It rejected that approach for two main reasons. First, the administration fears a humanitarian disaster. Second, the administration fears that sectarian violence against Sunnis in Baghdad will cause Sunnis in the western provinces to tllt towards al Qaeda, making it far more difficult for us to take that outfit on there.
Red State: A Change In Policy & The Rules of Engagement
Three things in particular are coming internally to Iraq. A hydrocarbon law will be pushed to divide oil proceeds for the benefit of the citizenry in Iraq; reforms will come to the debaathification laws; and Sunnis, who sat out the last election, will somehow become better represented in the Parliament.
The overarching strategy will be to crack down on security in Baghdad. Baghdad will be divided into nine districts with one full Iraqi brigade and 1 U.S. battalion per district. Likewise, we’ll see an increase of 5 U.S. army brigades in Iraq.
In these nine districts, the Iraqi and American forces will destroy the insurgency, hold the territory, and rebuild the territory. This is a substantial and good shift from prior policy, which saw the insurgents driven out only to come back in once we left the area.
American policy will also shift toward taking out the “micro-sanctuaries” of the insurgents in the Anbar Province. While there was a lot of talk on the call about defensive security measures, Tony Snow also explained that the rules of engagement will beneficially change and admitted that the President now recognizes we need more boots on the ground to take out the bad guys.
In the past, politicians and outsiders could call of a military operation based on who the target was, where the target was, etc. Those rules are now out. The military will not be stopped by outsiders from pursuing to completion an operation to take out the enemy. This is a bold and good change.
Right Wing News:A Teleconference With Tony Snow & Brett McGurk
Tony: #1) It’s absolutely essential to succeed in Iraq. #2) What has been attempted in Iraq over the last 6 months hasn’t worked. So how do we move ahead?
#1) We have to focus on security before anything else. We can’t move forward on politics or economics with the violence in Anbar.
#2) We have to put Iraqis in the lead on security.
#3) In the short run, the Iraqis can’t do this on their own. They need our help.
We also have to take on the extremists and force the people on the fence to choose between the government or the terrorists.
All this will create room for political progress. Some benchmarks will include:
#1) Distributing oil money across the country.
#2) Baath Party reformation has to happen. It has been too severe, we have to loosen it up.
#3) Seats in the Parliament need to be adjusted because Sunnis are underrepresented.
We’re going to help them build their institutions a little more — the court systems, for example. We’re also going to try to bring in more help from the region, asking neighbors to contribute money. The President will mention Iran and the Syrians tonight. They are causing problems.
The President will commit 5 army brigades to Baghdad to help the Iraqis secure Baghdad. The city will be divided into 9 districts. There will be 2500 Iraqi troops and about 600 US troops in each district. They’re going to go door to door and stay 24/7. We’re not going to just clear and leave, we’re going to leave and hold. We will help with transportation, logistics, etc.
There will be an economic component, too. We have had success in Mosul and will work to do it in larger parts of Iraq — roughly 1.2 bil for State Department and military spending on development in Iraq.
Real all of the pieces in total……
Stay tuned for the President’s speech at 6 PM PST.
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