Saturday, February 17, 2007
up to your neck in sweat and wet confetti:
Thanks to Major General Joseph Fil, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division in Baghdad, I see that I was wrong about what the surge actually is. The day that Bush unveiled the plan, I wrote that it was a reiteration of the "clear, hold, build" strategy announced in late 2005, only this time with greater resources devoted to it, and focused on Baghdad. This wasn't some idiosyncratic interpretation: the Wall Street Journal noticed the same thing, and General Petraeus's confirmation testimony strengthened the impression mightily. In a press conference yesterday, however, General Fil announced that what's being done in Baghdad is... something else:
This new plan involves three basic parts:clear, control and retain.The first objective within each of the security districts in the Iraqi capital is to clear out extremist elements neighborhood by neighborhood in an effort to protect the population.And after an area is cleared, we're moving to what we call the control operation.

Together with our Iraqi counterparts, we'll maintain a full-time presence on the streets, and we'll do this by building and maintaining joint security stations throughout the city.This effort to re- establish the joint security stations is well under way.The number of stations in each district will be determined by the commanders on the ground who control that area.

An area moves into the retain phase when the Iraqi security forces are fully responsible for the day-to-day security mission. At this point, coalition forces begin to move out of the neighborhood and into locations where they can respond to requests for assistance as needed.

During these three phrases, efforts will be ongoing to stimulate local economies by creating employment opportunities, initiating reconstruction projects and improving the infrastructure.These efforts will be spearheaded by neighborhood advisory councils, district advisory councils and the government of Iraq.
The charitable interpretation of this might be termed The Hold Steady. Contrary to, oh, everything we've been told by President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and nearly two months of Weekly Standard editorials, U.S. forces supporting the surge aren't going to be doing the holding, much less the building in clear-hold-build. Instead, General Fil informs us, they're going to get a given area under "control," and then give it to Iraqi forces for the latter part of the "control" phase and then the "retain" phase. They'll then serve in a rapid-response capacity as necessary in case of any -- how to put this -- miscalculations in commanders' assessments of when that area was ready for the big Iraqi handoff.

And so this begs the question: what's a sufficient indicator for judging when an area is under "control"? No violence? Some violence? Kinda-sorta violence? General Fil:
Well, car bombs certainly are a major threat.And you're absolutely right; the targets for them have been primarily innocent civilians, men, women and even children.

Where they're taking these bombs has generally been where the crowds are the largest. And these are quite frequently the downtown shopping areas and market areas.

We're right now in the process of blocking those off, making them in fact pedestrian-only zones. And we've done that to the largest market in the city over the past couple days.

We're going to continue to do that to at least six markets that are in downtown Baghdad, and then we'll expand that to other areas of the city. And we'll therefore be denying these car bombs the ability to direct themselves as a precision weapon where people are the most vulnerable.

We also recognize, though, that there are many places in the city where lines form and where -- denied these first market areas, where these car bombs are likely to be redirected. And we're going to work very hard to increase security there, with forces, and also to alert the Iraqi people to be more careful about where they're actually gathering street-side.
So: car bombs to be "redirected." U.S. forces not to "hold" territory, but rather "control" it. Hand off to Iraqi forces to "retain" those neighborhoods. "Building" to be ultimately under Iraqi control with some unspecified U.S. civilian help (that has a pattern of not materializing). Why, it's... it's... the last four years of failed strategy in Iraq! I suppose there's no real cause for surprise. You already knew that everything The Hold Steady does always sounds the same.
--Spencer Ackerman
The "surge" was always more of a marketing trick than anything else. Even the term itself sounds like a football play. It's not hard to imagine Bush watching a Texas A&M game, yelling "SURGE, GODAMMIT" at the TV.
Blogger aelkus | 9:04 PM

This analysis is crazy fresh. But that's big talk from an admitted NYC hardcore fan, accusing bands of sounding samey.

That's right. I said it. Get at me, dog.
Blogger Sam | 9:04 AM