Bush Plan For Iraq Requests More Troops And More Jobs

Bush Plan For Iraq Requests More Troops And More Jobs
January 7th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Bush Plan For Iraq Requests More Troops And More Jobs

Bush Plan For Iraq Requests More Troops And More Jobs
New York Times
January 7, 2007
Pg. 1

By David E. Sanger
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.
Some aspects of the plan were reported by The Wall Street Journal on Friday.
The officials would not say specifically whether the American troop increase would be carried out if the Iraqis failed to make good on their commitment to add to their own ranks. But they emphasized that the American influx, which would be focused in Baghdad and Anbar Province but could also include a contingency force in Kuwait, could be re-evaluated at any point.
The American officials who described the plan included some who said they were increasingly concerned about Mr. Maliki’s intentions and his ability to deliver. They said senior Bush administration officials had been deeply disturbed by accounts from witnesses to last Saturday’s hanging of Saddam Hussein, who said they believed that guards involved in carrying out the execution were linked to the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia that is headed by Moktada al-Sadr, whose name some of the executioners shouted while Mr. Hussein stood on the gallows.
“If that’s an indication of how Maliki is operating these days, we’ve got a deeper problem with the bigger effort,” said one official, who insisted on anonymity because he was discussing internal administration deliberations over a strategy that Mr. Bush has not yet publicly announced.
The White House has refused to talk publicly about any of the decisions that Mr. Bush has made about his plan, which is tentatively titled “A New Way Forward.” Even though speechwriters are already drafting Mr. Bush’s comments, several of the crucial elements are not final, officials warned. That apparently includes the exact amounts of money Mr. Bush will ask of Congress to finance the jobs program or a longer-term job-training effort that will also be part of the strategy.
Mr. Bush has previously promised to remake American reconstruction efforts in Iraq, most notably in December 2005, when he said that the United States had learned from the failure of efforts to rebuild major infrastructure, mostly run by American companies. But subsequent efforts to focus on programs that would bring more immediate benefits to Iraqis have also faltered.
The details of Mr. Bush’s latest military, economic and political initiatives were described by several sources, including some who said they doubted it would work. The jobs program, noted one, “would have been great in 2003 or even 2004, but we are trying it now in a very different Iraq,” one in which the passion for fighting for sectarian control of neighborhoods may outweigh interests in obtaining employment.
The American officials who described the program included both advocates and critics of Mr. Bush’s new strategy and representatives of three different executive branch departments. They would speak only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing internal deliberations about a plan that Mr. Bush had not yet announced.
The most immediate element of the new jobs program would amount to a major expansion of what is known in the military as the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, which provides money to local officers to put civilians to work as a way of reducing resistance to the American presence in neighborhoods. While the effort has had some successes, they have largely been temporary. As a senior White House official noted in an interview recently, “You’d go into a neighborhood, clear it, try to hold it, and come back later and discover that it’s all been shattered.”
The new effort, officials said, would cost between a half billion and a billion dollars, some of which would be spent on other efforts to achieve stability and train Iraqis for more permanent jobs. The State Department and the Treasury Department have been brought into that effort.
The plan also calls for a more than doubling of the “Provincial Reconstruction Teams,” relatively small groups of State Department officials empowered to coordinate local reconstruction efforts, chiefly hiring Iraqi companies. For much of the first half of 2006, the State Department was engaged in a bureaucratic dispute with the Defense Department about how these teams would be protected, including exploration of a plan to hire private protective forces that a White House official said “was too expensive.” Now those teams will be expanded and embedded with combat brigades, officials said, in what would amount to the latest effort to demonstrate to Iraqis that the American forces in their midst were not simply occupiers.
Much of the plan described by officials seemed to be consistent with views supported by Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who will soon take over as the commander of ground forces in Iraq and who has been a strong advocate of an everyday American troop presence in neighborhoods.
Mr. Bush’s speech is widely expected to make the case that Americans needed to commit to greater national sacrifice as part of what Bush administration officials acknowledge amounted to a last-ditch effort to salvage the mission in Iraq.
But almost as soon as his speech is done, a series of hearings will begin on Capitol Hill that Democrats intend to use to pick apart the details of the plan, with lawmakers questioning administration officials about whether a troop increase of any size can succeed this late in the war. Those hearings will also likely focus on whether the expanded American military commitment is linked to Iraqi military performance, a point that Bush administration officials would not address directly.
As described by those officials, Mr. Bush is stopping well short of declaring that the beefed-up American force will be sent only if the Iraqis also increase their own forces. But under the increase being contemplated, the reality is that every month between now and April or May, Mr. Bush will have a chance to decide whether to send an additional combat brigade into the country. “That’s our moment of leverage,” a White House official said.