US Faces Vietnam-style Collapse

The Bush administration is racing time to implement its "new way forward" strategy in Iraq in the coming six months or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force it into a hasty retreat.

US Faces Vietnam-style Collapse

"The implosion of domestic support for the war will compel the disengagement of US forces," Steven Simon, the National Security Council's senior director for transnational threats during the Clinton administration, told the Guardian on Thursday, March 1.

"It is now just a matter of time."

President George Bush announced on January 10 plans to deploy 21,500 additional troops in Iraq to break the cycle of violence in the war-torn country.

Two weeks ago, US and Iraqi forces launched a massive crackdowns in Baghdad to quell violence and mass killings in the capital.

However, roadside booby-traps, car bombs and suicide bombers continue to claim lives on a daily basis, eroding public confidence that the security plan will make Baghdad any safer.

Simon said a final meltdown in political and public backing was likely if Bush's new plan was not seen to be working quickly.

He said that if the plan failed to bear fruits by early September, Bush could lose control to the Democrats-controlled Congress and be forced to begin a phased withdrawal.

"If it gets really tough in the next few months, it will throw fuel on the fire in Washington.

"Congress will be emboldened in direct proportion to the trouble in Iraq."

Calls for withdrawing troops from Iraq have been building up in Washington over the rising death toll and spiraling violence in the country.

Up to 3,160 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, according to an AFP tally based on Pentagon figures.

Bush has recently acknowledged a possible comparison between Iraq and the Vietnam War.

Tense

The Bush administration has sent an elite team of veteran officers to Baghdad to mull ways of rendering the new Iraq plan a success.

But the team, known as the "Baghdad brains trust", has encountered a range of entrenched problems in what has become a race against time.

"They know they are operating under a clock," said a former senior administration official familiar with the team's deliberations.

"They know they are going to hear a lot more talk in Washington about 'Plan B' by the autumn - meaning withdrawal," he added.

"They know the next six-month period is their opportunity. And they say it's getting harder every day."

The team is still trying to figure out the nature of Bush's plan in the war-torn country.

"The scene is very tense," said the former official.

"They are working round the clock. Endless cups of tea with the Iraqis. But they're still trying to figure out what's the plan.

"The president is expecting progress. But they're thinking, what does he mean? The plan is changing every minute, as all plans do."

Insufficient

One of the main obstacles facing the team to have Bush's plan working is what they believe "insufficient" US troops.

"We don't have the numbers for the counter-insurgency job even with the surge," said one an American officer.

"The word 'surge' is a misnomer. Strategically, tactically, it's not a surge."

According to the US military's revised counter-insurgency field manual, FM 3-24, written by Gen David Petraeus, the US commander in Baghdad, the optimum "troop-to-task" ratio for Baghdad requires 120,000 US and allied troops in the city alone.

Current totals, even including often unreliable Iraqi units, fall short and the deficit is even greater in conflict areas outside Baghdad.

"Additional troops are essential if we are to win," said Lt-Col John Nagel, co-author of the manual.

Disintegrating

The US team is struggling to prevent the "politicization" of the surge by the Shiite-dominated government.

They fear that any security advances may be exploited by the government to further weaken the position of Sunnis.

They believe that the Maliki government is failing to work hard enough to meet other national reconciliation benchmarks.

"What we're doing is asking Maliki to confront his own powerbase," one officer said.

A recent classified memo by US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley cast doubts on Maliki's true intentions and ability to rein in raging sectarian violence.

The cracks in the US-led coalition in Iraq have also painted a grim future for Bush's Iraq strategy.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced Wednesday, February 21, a major troop withdrawal from Iraq.

Following suit, Danish Premier Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that all Danish troops would leave southern Iraq in August.

According to a British source, plans are in hand for a possible southwards deployment of 6,000 US troops to compensate for the withdrawing Britons.

The low morale of the US troops in Iraq is also casting doubts on the success of Bush's Iraq plan.

"It's amazing how well morale has held up so far," said the former official.

"But the guys know what's being said back home. There is no question morale is gradually being sapped by political debates."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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