BBC World News & Peter Spiegel / Los Angeles Times – 2007-01-04 23:41:08
Bush ‘To Replace Top US Generals’
BBC World News
WASHINGTON (January 4, 2006) — President George W Bush is to change his military operations chief for Iraq and Afghanistan, US media reports say. Adm William Fallon will replace Gen John Abizaid as head of US Central Command and there will be a new ground commander in Iraq, ABC News reported.
It also said that US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad is to replace John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN.
The reports come days before Mr Bush unveils a new strategy for Iraq that could include thousands more US troops.
The Pentagon has declined to comment on the reports.
Adm Fallon is the top military commander in the Pacific. If confirmed, the move would put an admiral in charge of two land wars.
ABC said Lt Gen David Petraeus was expected to replace Gen George Casey as the leading ground commander in Iraq. In a teleconference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki on Thursday, Mr Bush agreed there should be “sufficient” security forces in Baghdad, the White House said.
The BBC’s Justin Webb in Washington says there could be perhaps as many as 18,000 extra troops, a policy that is likely to bring gasps of disbelief from many of the president’s supporters. The Democrats, newly installed in power in both houses of Congress, will not be supportive, our correspondent says.
Mr Bush’s new approach is expected to be laid out in a speech as early as the middle of next week.
A senior White House official said Mr Bush might make the official announcement on Mr Khalilzad as early as Friday. Mr Khalilzad would have to be confirmed by the Senate, but analysts say he has maintained good relations with the Democrats. Reports say Ryan Crocker, US ambassador to Pakistan, may replace Mr Khalilzad in Baghdad.
John Negroponte is set to move from director of national intelligence to deputy secretary of state. Retired vice admiral and intelligence official Michael McConnell is expected to replace Mr Negroponte.
Old Guard Back on Iraq Policy
Peter Spiegel / Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON (January 4, 2007) — Ever since Iraq began spiraling toward chaos, the war’s intellectual architects — the so-called neoconservatives — have found themselves under attack in Washington policy salons and, more important, within the Bush administration.
Eventually, Paul D. Wolfowitz, the Defense department’s most senior neocon, went to the World Bank. His Pentagon colleague Douglas J. Feith departed for academia. John R. Bolton left the State Department for a stint at the United Nations.
But now, a small but increasingly influential group of neocons are again helping steer Iraq policy. A key part of the new Iraq plan that President Bush is expected to announce next week — a surge in U.S. troops coupled with a more focused counterinsurgency effort — has been one of the chief recommendations of these neocons since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
This group — which includes William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard magazine, and Frederick W. Kagan, a military analyst at a prominent think tank, the American Enterprise Institute — was expressing concerns about the administration’s blueprint for Iraq even before the invasion almost four years ago.
In their view, not enough troops were being set aside to stabilize the country. They also worried that the Pentagon had formulated a plan that concentrated too heavily on killing insurgents rather than securing law and order for Iraqi citizens.
These neoconservative thinkers have long advocated for a more classic counterinsurgency campaign: a manpower-heavy operation that would take U.S. soldiers out of their large bases dotted across the country and push them into small outposts in troubled towns and neighborhoods to interact with ordinary Iraqis and earn their trust.
But until now, it was an argument that fell on deaf ears.
“We have been pretty consistently in this direction from the outset,” said Kagan, whose December study detailing his strategy is influencing the administration’s current thinking. “I started making this argument even before the war began, because I watched in dismay as we messed up Afghanistan and then heard with dismay the rumors that we would apply some sort of Afghan model to Iraq.”
If Bush goes ahead with the surge idea, along with a shift to a more aggressive counterinsurgency, it would in many ways represent a wholesale repudiation of the outgoing Pentagon leadership.
These leaders — particularly former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the departing Middle East commander — strongly resisted more U.S. troops and a larger push into troubled neighborhoods out of fear it would prevent Iraqis from taking over the job themselves and exacerbate the image of America as an occupying power.
The plan the administration appears moving toward envisions an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 troops, the majority of whom would be sent to Baghdad. The increase would be achieved by delaying the departure of Marine units already in Iraq and speeding the departure of Army brigades due to deploy this spring.
The neoconservative group had been the driving force in Washington behind a move against Iraq, even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They saw Hussein as a lingering threat to world security — a view bolstered within the administration following 9/11. And they argued that transforming Iraq into a democracy could serve as a model to remake the Middle East’s political dynamics.
The problems with the war gradually undermined the clout they had wielded. But perhaps the more important hurdle to their views being heeded — especially on military matters — was the White House’s refusal to see its Iraq policy as a failure.
That changed this summer, when the spike in sectarian violence and the failure of an offensive to secure Baghdad created what one Pentagon advisor called a “psychological break” within the administration. Until then, neoconservatives argued, the administration saw little proof that Abizaid’s plan, which was backed by Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the military commander in Iraq, was failing.
The main reason for the new ascendancy of the neocon recommendations, said Kristol, is that “the Rumsfeld-Abizaid-Casey theory was tried and was found wanting…. Some of us challenged it very early on, but, of course, then we were just challenging it as a competing theory.”
Although Kristol, Kagan and their intellectual allies have pushed hard for their policy change for more than three years, they bristle at the notion that the idea of a larger troop presence in Iraq and a different approach to securing the country is wholly a neoconservative idea.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a leading Republican presidential contender, has been pushing for more troops and a different security strategy for nearly as long as Kristol and Kagan. Recently, support for a revised counterinsurgency plan also has gained support among military officers, active and retired. Perhaps most notable among this group is retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, a former Army chief of staff who signed on to Kagan’s plan last month.
The case for change has been bolstered by actions the military has taken, including a successful 2005 Army offensive in the northern Iraqi city of Tall Afar, where midlevel officers used counterinsurgency tactics to suppress sectarian violence. In addition, the Pentagon released a new counterinsurgency field manual last month that largely echoed Kagan’s thinking.
Some leading neoconservatives do not embrace the troop surge proposal.
Wolfowitz, for instance, ridiculed the notion that more troops would be needed to secure Iraq than were used in the invasion.