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Sunday, January 07, 2007

The end of the road

Mohammed Jalil/European Pressphoto Agency
Iraqis inspected the wreckage after a car bomb
exploded in Baghdad Saturday. The bomb, which
was apparently intended to strike an Iraqi police patrol,
killed a civilian and wounded three police officers.

Bush Plan for Iraq Requests More Troops and More Jobs

Published: January 7, 2007

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 — President Bush’s new Iraq strategy calls for a rapid influx of forces that could add as many as 20,000 American combat troops to Baghdad, supplemented with a jobs program costing as much as $1 billion intended to employ Iraqis in projects including painting schools and cleaning streets, according to American officials who are piecing together the last parts of the initiative.

The American officials said Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, formally agreed in a long teleconference on Thursday with Mr. Bush to match the American troop increase, made up of five combat brigades that would go in at a rate of roughly one a month, by sending three more Iraqi brigades to Baghdad over the next month and a half.

Nonetheless, even in outlining the plan, some American officials acknowledged deep skepticism about whether the new plan could succeed.

They said two-thirds of the promised Iraqi force would consist of Kurdish pesh merga units to be sent from northern Iraq, and they said some doubts remained about whether they would show up in Baghdad and were truly committed to quelling sectarian fighting.

The call for an increase in troops would also put Mr. Bush in direct confrontation with the leaders of the new Democratic Congress, who said in a letter to the president on Friday that the United States should move instead toward a phased withdrawal of American troops, to begin in the next four months.

Mr. Bush is expected to make the plan public in coming days, probably in a speech to the country on Wednesday that will cast the initiative as a joint effort by the United States and Iraq to reclaim control of Baghdad neighborhoods racked by sectarian violence. Officials said Mr. Bush was likely to be vague on the question of how long the additional American forces would remain on the streets of Baghdad. But they said American planners intended for the push to last for less than a year.

A crucial element of the plan would include more than doubling the State Department’s reconstruction efforts throughout the country, an initiative intended by the administration to signal that the new strategy would emphasize rebuilding as much as fighting.

But previous American reconstruction efforts in Iraq have failed to translate into support from the Iraqi population, and some Republicans as well as the new Democratic leadership in Congress have questioned if a troop increase would do more than postpone the inevitable and precarious moment when Iraqi forces have to stand on their own.

Congress has the power to halt the increases by cutting off money for Mr. Bush’s proposals. But some Democrats are torn about whether to press ahead with such a move for fear that it will appear that they are not supporting the troops.

When Mr. Bush gives his speech, he will cast much of the program as an effort to bolster Iraq’s efforts to take command over their own forces and territory, the American officials said. He will express confidence that Mr. Maliki is committed to bringing under control both the Sunni-led insurgency and the Shiite militias that have emerged as the source of most of the violence. Mr. Maliki picked up those themes in a speech in Baghdad on Saturday in which he said that multinational troops would support an Iraqi effort to secure the capital.

This plan is doomed. Kurds? In Baghdad fighting the Mahdi Army?

posted by Steve @ 1:06:00 AM

1:06:00 AM

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