The version I saw was dated 17 December 2006, and has since been updated somewhat. With that proviso in mind, the AEI scheme I read involves increasing the number of US brigades operating in Baghdad from five to ten, and the President’s announced plan tracks this. The President also said that a total of 18 Iraqi Army and police brigades would be put in Baghdad. Presently, the Iraqis have four Army brigades (from 6th Division), in the city.
The AEI proposal, though, was essentially a discussion of where troops might be found; and the importance of finding them – and not a detailed operational plan governing their employment. The Belmont Club’s discussion of the AEI proposal is worth reading after a look at the President’s speech.
The AEI plan was pretty skimpy on what, exactly, is supposed to happen at the sharp end: that is, how the platoons and companies involved will clear the Bad Guys from Baghdad. Will the US troops have free use of their artillery, helicopter gunships and their air support ? Do the police have arrest lists, or any idea where the rebels may be hiding ? What's being done to get this information ? Will we be aggressively going hunting for these people and their arms stashes, or are we just providing passively patrolling targets for the rebels to bomb and snipe at ?
How about the command arrangements ? The President says the Iraqis are going to appoint a military commander for Baghdad, “and two deputy commanders.” Maybe one for each side of the river…or maybe an Iraqi and an American deputy ? It will be interesting to see if American troops wind up under an Iraqi commander, even in theory. I’d be more impressed if an American commander was running the show in Baghdad – that would tell me the Iraqis meant for a serious housecleaning to take place – and that they were putting foreigners in charge of it so they could blame them for excesses later. The Iraqi politicos, after all, have to live in Iraq.
Will the commander have plenary military and civil power ? Will an American General be there to jog his elbow ? Will the Iraqis arrange for the TV media to be kept away from things they do not need to see ? Are the Iraqis going to quit their silly “catch and release” programs for rebels – putting the villains our troops catch right back on the streets ? Will the troops at last deal with the Sadr City militias ? Hopefully and surely, whatever the White House and Pentagon have cooked-up involves a detailed operational plan. More on that later.
But for me, the most interesting part of the speech, by far, was this passage:
Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity - and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.
Meanwhile, "neutral" neighbors and war supplies. This all sounds real familiar: maybe a nostalgia trip down the “Ho Chi Minh Trail.”
As if it wasn’t clear enough that Mad Jad Ahmadinejad and the Persians are in the crosshairs, there’s the next paragraph:
We are also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence sharing - and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.
Finally, the reference to Turkey is interesting. The President might be talking there about Iraq and Turkey’s common border in Kurdistan. But Turkey also has a border with Iran – and with Syria. President Bush dropped the Turkey reference in right after mention of the Patriot. Is Turkey being offered some Patriot batteries ?
What a speech. You’d never know the President was isolated, hamstrung by a defeatist Congress and press that are absolutely salivating at the prospect of an American defeat. Here’s hoping the plan works, because barring a miracle, it’s the last shot.