10 years, 4 months ago
John Little has given us a tip to a breaking story about potential movement of the Marines out of Anbar altogether. This is major … major … news. ABC News is reporting the following (I will copy and paste at length, and then offer up [I hope] some interesting … and unique … observations):
ABC News has learned that Pentagon officials are considering a major strategic shift in Iraq, to move U.S. forces out of the dangerous Sunni-dominated al-Anbar province and join the fight to secure Baghdad.
The news comes as President Bush prepares to meet with Iraq’s president to discuss the growing sectarian violence.
There are now 30,000 U.S. troops in al-Anbar, mainly Marines, braving some of the fiercest fighting in Iraq. At least 1,055 Americans have been killed in this region, making al-Anbar the deadliest province for American troops.
The region is a Sunni stronghold and the main base of operations for al Qaeda in Iraq and has been a place of increasing frustration to U.S. commanders.
In a recent intelligence assessment, top Marine in al-Anbar, Col. Peter Devlin, concluded that without a massive infusement of more troops, the battle in al-Anbar is unwinnable.
In the memo, first reported by the Washington Post, Devlin writes, “Despite the success of the December elections, nearly all government institutions from the village to provincial levels have disintegrated or have been thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by al Qaeda in Iraq.”
Faced with that situation in al-Anbar, and the desperate need to control Iraq’s capital, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace is considering turning al-Anbar over to Iraqi security forces and moving U.S. troops from there into Baghdad.
“If we are not going to do a better job doing what we are doing out [in al-Anbar], what’s the point of having them out there?” said a senior military official.
Another option under consideration is to increase the overall U.S. troop level in Iraq by two to five brigades (that’s about 7,000 to 18,000 troops).
Generals Casey and Abizaid, however, have both weighed in against this idea. And such an increase would only be sustainable for six to eight months. Far more likely, the official says, will be a repositioning of forces currently in Iraq. “There is a push for a change of footprint, not more combat power.”
In Racoon Hunting and the Battle for Anbar, after the Marines had said that Fallujah held iconic status to them, and losing it would be like losing Iwo Jima, I asked the question, “Will we lose this hallowed soil, this soil on which so much U.S. blood has been shed?”
Perhaps. And then perhaps not. There are two possibilities that I see. Either we have ceded power to al Qaeda and asked the Iraqi security forces to take them out, or we are cordoning off the area, only to go in later to “clear” it. On October 24, I said that we would not “clear” Ramadi Fallujah-style, and at the time I had what I thought were good reasons to take this position.
I believe that there is some possibility, however remote it may seem to the reader (and to me), that we are cordoning off the Anbar Province (and in particular Ramadi), in order to prepare an assault later “Fallujah-style.” More Marine patrols where they are getting sniper attacks is not adding to security. We are either getting out, or we’re getting serious.
I confess, I am at a point of indecision on this, because I think the military brass may be. It might be left to the incoming SECDEF to make the decision. More force projection, or do we turn it over to the Iraqis?
The war turns on this decision.