Iraq Army Plans For A Wider Role In Securing Baghdad

Iraq Army Plans For A Wider Role In Securing Baghdad
December 13th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Iraq Army Plans For A Wider Role In Securing Baghdad

Iraq Army Plans For A Wider Role In Securing Baghdad
New York Times
December 13, 2006
Pg. 1

By Michael R. Gordon and Sabrina Tavernise
WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 — Iraq has presented the United States with a plan that calls for Iraqi troops to assume primary responsibility for security in Baghdad early next year. American troops would be shifted to the periphery of the capital.
Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser, said in an interview that the plan was presented during the meeting in Amman, Jordan, on Nov. 30 between President Bush and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
“I think it is extremely important they reduce their visibility and they reduce their presence,” Mr. Rubaie said of the American troops in Baghdad. “They should be in the suburbs within greater Baghdad.”
A spokesman for the National Security Council, Gordon Johndroe, said Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American military commander in Iraq, was assessing the plan.
The plan may hold some attraction for the Bush administration, which is immersed in a review of Iraq strategy, but it also poses risks.
The plan is consistent with the administration’s desire for the Iraqis to take more responsibility for controlling the violence there, and it may reduce American casualties. But the Americans do not want to become complicit in sectarian violence. The Shiite-led government has been slow to act against militias that are forcing Sunnis from entire swaths of northern and eastern Baghdad, most recently from the neighborhoods of Huriya, Zayuna and Ghadier.
Because some of its forces, especially the police, are infiltrated by militias and have been implicated in attacks on Sunnis, American commanders — and Sunni politicians — fear that given a free hand, government forces might be used to cleanse the city of Sunnis.
Referring to the Iraqi demand for more control, one American military officer in Baghdad said the question was, “How do we accomplish that but still maintain some measure of control to ensure the forces aren’t used in a sectarian manner?”
The plan, if implemented, would be a major shift in American military policy. Commanders began this war fighting a Sunni Arab insurgency, and later broadened their efforts to include Shiite militias, after they became active in 2006.
For months commanders have emphasized that they were fighting both enemies with equal vigor, but this plan would shift focus for the Americans more to insurgents and Sunni extremists.
In response to the Iraqi demands for control, the American military command in Baghdad has also been developing its own plan, which comes with conditions that must be met before control is handed over, according to American officials in Baghdad who asked to remain unidentified because the plan is not final.
The Iraqi plan was outlined by Mr. Rubaie in a recent interview in Bahrain, where he was attending a conference organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based research institute. While the Shiite government has been pushing for greater Iraqi control of military operations for months, the plan was presented formally for the first time to the Americans in Jordan.
The plan calls for pulling back most American troops from central Baghdad and redefining their mission so they concentrate primarily on fighting the forces said to be backed by Al Qaeda and the Sunni-based insurgent organizations, leaving the effort to quell sectarian tensions within the capital to the government’s largely Shiite forces.
Under the plan, the government would have direct command of the two Iraqi divisions in the Baghdad area in the next several months — a timeline that had been pressed by the Iraqis but that the American military has viewed as overly optimistic.
The divisions would be reinforced by two largely Kurdish brigades that are to be sent from Sulaimaniya and Erbil, in northern Iraq. That would amount to several thousand more troops. The training and equipping of the forces would be expedited, Mr. Rubaie said.
Security efforts in Baghdad would focus on seven neighborhoods. (Iraqi officials declined to list them.) There would be fewer checkpoints but they would be better protected. Leaders of death squads would be hunted down.
American troops on the periphery of Baghdad would stop suicide bombers and other terrorists before they penetrated the city. Efforts to prevent infiltration of the capital have not been very successful, partly because the Iraqi military has not adequately staffed the checkpoints, American officials said.
Other American troops would remain as advisers to Iraqi units in Baghdad. American forces might also remain in a supporting role at bases within the capital.
“The nature of the American military is that they won’t let go,” said Mr. Rubaie. “I understand it because they do it much better than we do. But we have to stand alone. We have to wean ourselves off the coalition and make our own mistakes and learn from our own mistakes.”
The plan has seriously alarmed Sunni politicians, who said they could not imagine that the Americans would turn security over to a government that they see as deeply sectarian.
“It will be a disaster,” said Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni who is speaker of Parliament. “I think the Americans are not so stupid as to do that. The city would be a safe place for the militias.”
American and Iraqi efforts to secure Baghdad have failed to stem sectarian violence. One problem has been the Iraqi failure to send all the reinforcements promised. The two Iraqi brigades to be provided by the latest Iraqi plan would make up some of the shortfall, but would not nearly compensate for the number of American troops to be withdrawn under the plan.
Mr. Johndroe, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said, “The president was pleased to see the Maliki government being assertive in its plan to secure Baghdad, and made it clear in the meeting that General Casey would study their proposal and take a closer look at it. ”
In response to the Iraqi push for control, Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the second in command in Iraq, developed a plan that envisions redeploying American combat units outside Baghdad and giving Iraqi units with American advisers primary responsibility for security in the city.
But such steps would be taken only after progress on political reconciliation between Sunni and Shiite factions, and a major increase in the size of the adviser teams, among other steps, according to a military official in Baghdad.
In addition, the American plan calls for a major employment program in Baghdad and increased spending on reconstruction projects in areas of the city cleared by American and Iraqi forces.
President Bush talked Tuesday in a videoconference with the ground commanders in Iraq, including General Chiarelli.
Michael R. Gordon reported from Washington, and Sabrina Tavernise from Baghdad. David S. Cloud and David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Washington.

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