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November 11th, 2006 - Military Team Undertakes a Broad Review of the Iraq War
By Michael R. Gordon
New York Times
November 11, 2006
Washington, Nov. 10 - Senior military leaders have begun a broad review of strategy in Iraq and other crisis areas in the Bush administration’s campaign against terrorism, according to Pentagon officials.
In a closely held effort, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has assembled a team of some of the military’s brightest and most innovative officers and told them to take a fresh look at Iraq and Afghanistan, among other flashpoints.
Pentagon officials said that the team’s objective was to outline a range of options that General Pace might draw on in advising President Bush and Robert M. Gates, selected by Mr. Bush to become defense secretary, as the White House adjusts its strategy in Iraq. Ideas that have been discussed include increasing the size of the Iraqi security forces, along with the American effort to train and equip them, and adjusting the size of the American force in Iraq.
But Pentagon officials stressed that the review extended well beyond Iraq, and that some unorthodox ideas on how to fight terrorism were being weighed. The review reflects the recognition that military efforts need to be part of an overall approach that includes all aspects of American power, including diplomatic and economic.
Pentagon officials said the military review, which formally began Sept. 25, is being coordinated with the rest of the government, but that the military team had not met with members of the Iraq Study Group, the commission that is also looking into options for Iraq. The creation of that commission, headed by a former secretary of state, James A. Baker III, and Lee H. Hamilton, a former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had raised the possibility that fundamental decisions on how to proceed in Iraq might be determined largely outside of the Pentagon. The commission is being advised by former military officers, but none of its members have served as senior military commanders.
The team involved in the military review includes Col. H. R. McMaster, the Army officer whose 2005 operation in Tal Afar has been cited as a textbook case in how to wage counterinsurgency in Iraq.
Other military officers include Col. Peter R. Mansoor, the director of the United States Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who previously commanded an Army brigade that fought the Mahdi Army militia in 2004 at Karbala.
Col. Thomas C. Greenwood, the director of the Marine Command and Staff College, who oversaw efforts to train Iraqi security forces in Anbar, the restive province in western Iraq, is also on the team. All told, more than a dozen military officers are on the team, which is overseen by Capt. Michael Rogers of the Navy, who serves as a special assistant to General Pace.
Though the review has been under way for six weeks, it has acquired special urgency as a result of the Democratic gains in the election, President Bush’s decision to replace Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary and the clamor for some kind of course adjustment in Iraq.
The goal is to finish the review in December, but some of its interim thinking has been made available to the military chiefs, Pentagon officials said.
Initially, the Pentagon tried to keep the existence of the review secret. But in recent days the Bush administration has advertised its willingness to consider fresh approaches in an effort to counter criticism that it was rigidly adhering to a faltering strategy. General Pace referred to the review in general terms in TV appearances today.
“We have to give ourselves a good honest scrub about what is working and what is not working, what are the impediments to progress and what should we change about the way we are doing it to make sure that we get to the objective that we set for ourselves,” General Pace said in an interview with CBS. “I am looking at it with the Joint Chiefs. We’re making our recommendations. We’re having our dialogue.”
General Pace said that Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Iraq, and General John P. Abizaid, the head of the United States Central Command, were part of the effort.
Mr. Bush is to meet Monday with the commission headed by Mr. Baker and Mr. Hamilton. Others who will meet with the group are Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Mr. Rumsfeld; the national intelligence director, John D. Negroponte; Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency; and Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Iraq. The study group is expected to issue its recommendations around Dec. 7.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company