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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Surge Sparked Dissent and Infighting: Wapo

Thats the headline on Wapo's piece that I read today. Four pages and worth the read.

Initially when the surge was announced, the commanders had their own opinions on how it would work, what it would accomplish and how to get to the desired result.

Military men are not "yes" men to the President despite the lies that Pelosi and Reid keep publicly stating, they have a responsibility to their men in the field and their honor and valor as well as their military credibility stands out front and center.

So the beginning of the Wapo peice shows those discussions from when the surge first began.

On page #2 of the Wapo article they go on to show where the early turning points began:

While Bush played defense in Washington, he also needed to turn up the pressure in Baghdad. The strategy would never work, Bush aides knew, unless Maliki stepped up. National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley had outlined in a memo last fall the deep White House skepticism about the prime minister's intentions and abilities to take on Shiite militias.

Bush instituted videoconference calls with Maliki every two weeks, prodding him to seek accord among Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions. At first, the Americans noticed some change. Maliki, who previously had blocked U.S. forces from taking on the Mahdi Army militia of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, gave Petraeus the green light to go after anyone responsible for attacks. He also deployed three Iraqi brigades in Baghdad, as promised.

Sadr fled for Iran in February, concerned that U.S. forces would target him. It was a "very personal" decision, not a strategic one, said a senior U.S. intelligence official. "He fled because he feared for his safety." With Sadr out of the picture, his power base weakened, and supporters began fighting among themselves. Some decided to become more politically active and stop mobilizing against U.S. forces. Others began attacking Sunnis.

More striking was the emerging shift in Anbar; al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgents had grown so dominant in the western province that military intelligence had all but given up on the area months earlier. Bush benefited from good timing. As he introduced his new strategy, Marine commanders had already made common cause with local Sunni tribal leaders who had broken with the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, also called AQI.

Why the sheiks turned remains a point of debate, but it seems clear that the tribes resented al-Qaeda's efforts to ban smoking and marry local women to build ties to the region. "Marrying women to strangers, let alone foreigners, is just not done," Australian Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, a Petraeus adviser, wrote in an essay.

The sheik who forged the alliance with the Americans, Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, traced the decision to fight al-Qaeda to Sept. 14, 2006, long before the new Bush strategy, but the president's plan dispatched another 4,000 U.S. troops to Anbar to exploit the situation. As security improved, the White House eagerly took credit.

The "Anbar Awakening" represented perhaps the most important shift in years, but it generated little debate at the White House. Long before the tribes switched sides, the administration conducted a policy exercise on how to team up with former insurgents. But when such an alliance occurred, it bubbled up from the ground with no Washington involvement. "We're not smart enough to know the course that these matters might take," Rice conceded to an Australian newspaper last week.

The alliances generated angst among Maliki and other Shiite leaders in Baghdad, who wondered whether such groups would turn against them. "There were a couple times we got from Maliki very, very alarming, 'What are you guys doing?' " messages, recalled another top official.

Wapo often creates headlines because they understand many people won't bother to read the article itself and those that do, rarely make it past the first or second page, which is why they buried the fact that the "dissent" ended as the surge began to produce the desired results, all the way on page #4.

Anbar now looked even more successful, and while Americans had originally considered the situation unique, they began considering ways to replicate it. As part of the new Bush strategy, Rice had established 10 provincial reconstruction teams around Iraq to work with local officials rather than rely on the ineffectual central government. In speeches, Bush began hailing "bottom up" reconciliation.

Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Petraeus's deputy, sent a memo to U.S. commanders in Iraq urging them to seek local deals similar to those in Anbar through reward money and nonlethal aid such as radios, clothes and telephones. "Reconciliation is local," he wrote, "and there is no one-size fits all solution to this complex problem."

A Skeptic Takes Charge

By the time Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute arrived at the White House as the war czar overseeing Iraq and Afghanistan, the president's aides were in the throes of writing an interim report on the benchmarks, due to Congress on July 15. Like many of his former colleagues at the Pentagon, Lute had been a skeptic of the surge. Now he was charged with making it successful.

He showed up the first few days wearing his uniform before realizing that it would be better to switch to a suit. Unlike his predecessor, Lute briefed the president at 7 a.m. every day, giving him clout to resolve thorny matters. He told his staff to narrow their priorities from 100 issues to the top 20.

His first task was the draft report to Congress, which he deemed excessively positive. It said twice as many benchmarks had satisfactory progress as had unsatisfactory, despite the Iraqi government's failure to meet most political and economic goals.

On one benchmark, the State Department wanted to say the Iraqis were making satisfactory progress spending their own money on reconstruction, while the Treasury Department disagreed. Lute deemed that the goal was not being met. "He said we've got to call a ball either out or in, and this one was out," recalled one official involved. The White House eventually split the difference, judging that benchmark as "partially met."

Lute also arrived at a time of renewed political alarm inside the White House, as leading establishment Republicans, including Sens. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), Pete V. Domenici (N.M.) and George V. Voinovich (Ohio) broke with Bush's policy. Aides urged Bush to emphasize that the troop buildup would lead to eventual withdrawals once security was established. The president rejected that, concluding that if he "showed leg," as one aide put it, it would only encourage more Republicans to defect.

Another new arrival in the West Wing set up a rapid-response PR unit hard-wired into Petraeus's shop. Ed Gillespie, the new presidential counselor, organized daily conference calls at 7:45 a.m. and again late in the afternoon between the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the U.S. Embassy and military in Baghdad to map out ways of selling the surge.

From the start of the Bush plan, the White House communications office had been blitzing an e-mail list of as many as 5,000 journalists, lawmakers, lobbyists, conservative bloggers, military groups and others with talking points or rebuttals of criticism. Between Jan. 10 and last week, the office put out 94 such documents in various categories -- "Myths/Facts" or "Setting the Record Straight" to take issue with negative news articles, and "In Case You Missed It" to distribute positive articles or speeches.

Finally someone who understood the media war was just as important and part of the same battle we were fighting on the war on terror. We had seen the al-Qaeda statements in which he said that they would wage a media war to turn the American people against the war, but as I pointed out on a previous post, my biggest complaint about the Bush administration was that they knew this, the showed us the statements on the White House website, the understood that this was part of al-Qaeda's strategy and yet they took 4 years to actually work and set up a strategy of their own to counter the media war.

It should not have taken this long to do so. Once we did start countering it, the American support for the war started gradually inching upwards as shown from the last four polls, one from the NYT that couldn't believe what they were seeing with the results so they REDID the poll, just to be further surprised that it showed the same thing.

Finally, our administration was fighting this war on the media front as our enemies already were.

Eight Months Later

Petraeus was doing his part in Baghdad, hosting dozens of lawmakers and military scholars for PowerPoint presentations on why the Bush strategy had made gains. Many Republicans and even Democrats came home impressed, and suddenly even critics were agreeing that Petraeus had made some progress in security even though the Iraqi political situation remained a mess. Petraeus also persuaded intelligence officials to revise some key judgments of a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq to reflect security gains.

Some visitors suspected a skewed picture. "We only saw things that reinforced their message that the surge was working," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

But Bush understood that the "breathing space" had yielded little political reconciliation. As summer wore on, Bush grew blunt in his conference calls with Maliki. As one aide recalled, "He would say, 'Hey, you told me you were going to do X, Y and Z. What happened? Are you going to get agreement on these key pieces of legislation or not?' "

In Baghdad, Crocker and O'Sullivan pressed Maliki to reach consensus with four other Iraqi leaders representing Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. In late August, the five announced agreement on a path forward on stalled legislation such as de-Baathification. A week later, Bush made a surprise visit to Anbar where he met with Maliki and the others to congratulate them, then met with the sheiks to highlight the success of the U.S.-tribal coalition.

The trip energized Bush and his team. Even Gates said he was more optimistic than he has been since taking office. While the secretary had been "cagey" in the past, a senior defense official said, "he's come to the conclusion that what Petraeus is doing is actually more effective than what he thought."

But the trip did not end the debate. Fallon has made the case that Petraeus's recommendations should consider the political reality in Washington and lay out a guide to troop withdrawals, while Petraeus has resisted that, beyond a possible token pullout of a brigade early next year, according to military officials. The Joint Chiefs have been sympathetic to Fallon's view.

In an interview Friday, Fallon said he and Petraeus have reached accommodation about tomorrow's testimony. "The most important thing is I'm very happy with what Dave has recommended," he said. As for the earlier discussions, he begged off. "It's too politically charged right now."

So, as to where the headline from Wapo pointed to "dissent" they buried the fact, on page #4, that the dissent has turned into Fallon being "very happy with what Dave [Petraeus] has recommended".

In the world of Wapo, headlines sell but truth and reality is to be buried on a page where it is likely no one will ever read it.

Don Surber points out another Wapo article we see the U.S. Institute of Peace with the suggestion that within 3 years we have a 50% troops reduction in Iraq, which if the progress we have been seeing continues and after General petraeus has already said that we may be able to start drawing down some of troops before that, it seems the U.S. Institute of Peace is running along the same lines and makes perfect sense.

With the most recent progress, politically, in Iraq with the Sunnis rejoining parliament and ending their boycott, we see that Bush and General Petraeus were correct when they said that progress in security, military gains would allow "breathing room" for the political process to start seeing some success.

Tracked back by:
Why Do they Keep Changing the Deadline; is Leaving Iraq Really Irresponsible? [Updated] from Buck Naked Politics...

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