Pentagon Devises 'Hybrid' Iraq Plan

A Pentagon ad hoc group reviewing the situation in Iraq has devised a "hybrid" plan that aims to curb sectarian violence, train Iraqi servicemen and shrink the number of US troops in the country, The Washington Post revealed on Monday, November 20.

Pentagon Devises 'Hybrid' Iraq Plan

The plan is a mixture of three options outlined by the group commissioned by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace to improve the situation in Iraq.

Dubbed "Go Big," "Go Long" and "Go Home," the three options proposed increasing the number of the US servicemen or shrinking the forces but staying longer or full withdrawal from the oil-rich country.

The review group, led by three high-profile colonels H.R. McMaster and Peter Mansoor of the Army, and Thomas C. Greenwood of the Marine Corps, rejected an immediate pullout from Iraq.

It recommends a combination of a small but short-term increase in the troops and a long-term commitment to training and advising Iraqi forces.

Under this mixture of options, which is gaining favor inside the military, the US presence in Iraq, currently about 140,000 troops, would be boosted by 20,000 to 30,000 for a short period, officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Post.

The temporary increase is aimed at curbing sectarian violence and sending a message to the Iraqi government that the "Go Long" option was not a disguised form of withdrawal.

Under the hybrid plan, the short increase in US troop levels would be followed by a long-term plan to radically cut the presence, perhaps to 60,000 troops, the American daily learnt.

Backfire

But a defense official has warned that the combination plan could backfire if the Iraqi government suspect it is a ruse to pull out slowly from the country.

"If we commit to that concept, we have to accept upfront that it might result in the opposite of what we want," he told the Post.

A military intelligence official, however, goes for the "Go Long" approach.

"The 'Go Long' approach is one that can work if there is sufficient strategic patience, resources appropriated and [if] leadership executes effectively," he told the daily.

But a major obstacle to the "Go Long" approach is Democratic opposition to "staying the course" in Iraq.

Empowered by their sweeping Congressional mid-term election victory and a mandate from American voters, Democrats are pressing for a phased US troop pullout from Iraq in the next four to six months, putting the pullout as their top priority when the new Congress convenes in January.

The Pentagon group has already given a thumbs-down to what it considered variants of withdrawal, such as pulling US units out of the cities and keeping them in isolated enclaves.

As for the training strategy, planners envision taking five to 10 more years to create a stable and competent Iraqi army, the Post said.

Common

The pentagon review group is operating independently from a Congress-chartered bipartisan Iraq Study Group led by former Secretary of State James Baker.

Some of the recommendations of the Pentagon's group are similar to those devised by the Baker's group, according to the Post.

Both groups recommend giving more attention to training Iraqi forces and bringing neighboring countries like Syria and Iran into talks about stabilizing Iraq.

Syrian Foreign Minister Wallid Muallem, on a landmark visit to Baghdad, was set to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Monday.

Muallem's visit, the first by a Syrian minister since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003, came amid raging bloodshed that saw nearly 100 people killed across Iraq on Sunday.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently urged US President George W. Bush to involve Iraq's neighbors Syria and Iran in efforts to stabilize the country.

The Iraq war has cost Bush's Republicans dearly in the November mid-term elections.

After the congressional defeat, a politically humbled Bush has admitted the impact of the unpopular Iraq war on his party's major loss.

He conceded to mounting demands, especially from Democrats, to replace Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has come to symbolize the administration's unwillingness to change a policy that has failed to bring order to Iraq and that has lost popular support at home.

Without UN authorization, the Bush administration invaded Iraq on March 21, 2003, on claims of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, a claim gainsaid by a later US presidential report.

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