Pace Group To Put Forth Iraq Strategy Alternatives By Mid-December




 
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Boots
 
November 9th, 2006  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Pace Group To Put Forth Iraq Strategy Alternatives By Mid-December


Inside The Pentagon
November 9, 2006
Pg. 1


A small group of officers assembled by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to draw up alternatives to the U.S. military strategy in Iraq is expected to conclude its work in December, according to defense sources. Some observers anticipate the recommendations will call for a dramatic change of course in the Persian Gulf nation and perhaps in the war on terrorism more broadly.
The post-Election Day resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld may be a strong indication that a sharp turn in Iraq strategy is in the offing, according to experts.
The Joint Staff review is being carried out in extraordinary secrecy. A spokesman for Pace said this week the group has no formal name but its role is “to assess what’s working and what’s not working” in Iraq and beyond. The spokesman did not respond by press time (Nov. 8) to a number of follow-up questions posed by a reporter.
Pace’s exploration of Iraq alternatives comes as a congressionally mandated study group, co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN), is conducting an independent review of the strategy to combat the insurgency and sectarian violence in the war-torn nation.
Some experts speculate the Marine Corps general decided to convene his own panel to develop new alternatives for Iraq in case the Baker-Hamilton “Iraq Study Group” offers recommendations the military or the Bush administration find unacceptable.
President Bush’s selection of former CIA chief Robert Gates -- a member of the Baker-Hamilton panel -- to replace Rumsfeld could have interesting repercussions if Pace’s findings differ significantly from those of the Iraq Study Group.
But, following a midterm election in which Democrats retook control of the House and possibly the Senate, Bush signaled he is ready for at least some amount of change.
“Stay the course means let’s get the job done, but it doesn’t mean, you know, staying stuck on a strategy or tactics that may not be working,” Bush said yesterday (Nov. 8) in announcing Rumsfeld’s departure. “I’m assessing, as well, all the time [the question of] do we have the right people in the right place, the right strategy. As you know, we’re constantly changing tactics, and that requires constant assessment.”
Bush held a second press conference later in the afternoon to introduce Gates as his nominee for defense secretary.
“As part of [the Baker-Hamilton] commission, [Gates] has traveled to Iraq and met with the country’s leaders and our military commanders on the ground,” Bush said. “He will provide the department with a fresh perspective and new ideas on how America can achieve our goals in Iraq.”
For his part, Pace asked each of the services in September to temporarily detail to his review group their best mid-level strategists with experience in Iraq, defense sources tell Inside the Pentagon.
Participants include Army Col. H.R. McMaster, who until earlier this year commanded a cavalry regiment that pacified the Iraqi insurgent stronghold of Tall Afar, though violence has since returned to that town. Another team member is Army Col. Peter Mansoor, who directs an Army-Marine Corps counterinsurgency school at Fort Leavenworth, KS. The Marine Corps reportedly has sent Col. Thomas Greenwood, director of the Marine Command and Staff College, and the other services are represented on the study team, as well.
The Joint Staff strategy review kicked off in late September and was originally slated to last 60 days, though it now appears work will continue into December, according to officials familiar with the group who are not authorized to speak for it.
Since the review began, the security situation in Iraq has further deteriorated. At least 105 U.S. personnel were killed in October, the fourth-deadliest month since the war began in 2003. By the end of last month, 2,818 U.S. troops had died in combat in Iraq.
Pace is trying to determine why Iraqi security has not improved despite the addition of more than 300,000 Iraqi security forces over the past two years, Time reported late last month.
Among the top ranks of the military, there is a growing consensus that more U.S. troops are needed to crush the insurgency and cultivate the support of an Iraqi public that is not yet convinced American forces will win, a number of well placed sources say.
But that view is increasingly out of step with lawmakers and the American public, where pressure is mounting to establish “benchmarks” for the withdrawal of some or all U.S. troops.
Back at the Pentagon, Pace’s group of colonels is taking a wide-ranging approach, examining holistically the strategies for securing Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as fighting the broader war on terror, defense sources tell ITP.
The results may prove surprising, some say. The Pace group is headed toward making some bold and unconventional recommendations -- ones that may demand consensus across party lines as Bush struggles to work with newly empowered Democrats in Congress. The president and a variety of lawmakers have staked out opposing positions on troop levels for Iraq and what their objectives and strategy should be.
If the various political factions dig in their heels on their respective concepts for Iraq, they might yet all agree on one thing: that the Pace recommendations are politically naive and dead on arrival, some officials warned.
Another risk Pace faces is that the new defense secretary or members of Congress will cherry-pick only some of his recommendations for implementation, potentially leaving the military with a watered-down version of a new strategy that would only work if carried out in toto, sources said.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Pace downplayed the group’s role in assessing new options for Iraq.
“Working groups are convened for a variety of issues and the prosecution of GWOT [the global war on terror] is one of those issues,” according to Army Reserve Lt. Col. Diane Battaglia, a Joint Staff spokeswoman. “The former commanders may meet with this working group and discuss their experiences and insights as it pertains to the GWOT, but this is not an ‘Iraq Strategy’ specific group.”
-- Elaine M. Grossman
 


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