Sunday, June 25, 2006

Cut-and-Run Casey

During the House and Senate debates on the Iraq war in the past few weeks, the GOP leadership declared that any timetable for U.S. troop withdrawl from Iraq was "a cut and run strategy" akin to surrender to the terrorists.

Today, however, the NY Times says the top commander in Iraq, General Casey, has drafted a plan to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq in September of this year. The plan is contingent upon conditions on the ground in Iraq, of course, including "the development of competent Iraq security forces, a reduction in Sunni Arab hostility toward the new Iraqi government and the assumption that the insurgency will not expand beyond Iraq's six provinces."

The withdrawl will begin two months before the November midterm elections, a date which leads many to believe the administration is planning the troop withdrawl more for political expediency than the political realities in Iraq. This article from the NY Daily News underscores that point:

A leaked memo signed by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and sent to the State Department on June 6 warns that "Islamist" militias increasingly rule the streets and the new Iraqi government is powerless to stop them.

It also reveals how isolated the embassy is - and how reliant it is on Iraqi workers to tell them what's going on outside the fortified Green Zone.

As an indication of the Iraqis' growing fears, the memo said, "We have begun shredding documents printed out that show local staff surnames. In March a few staff approached us to ask what provisions would we make for them if we evacuate."

The worried workers also don't trust the Iraqi guards manning the checkpoints into the Green Zone, claiming that they have become "more militia-like."

"One employee asked us to explore getting her press credentials because guards had held her embassy badge up and proclaimed loudly to nearby passersby 'Embassy' as she entered," the memo says. "Such information is a death sentence if overheard by the wrong people."

Asked about the memo, which was leaked to The Washington Post, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said,"I think it's no secret that Iraqis who work for foreign elements in Iraq have for some time been the targets of those who would seek to take Iraq backward."

Titled "Snapshots From the Office - Public Affairs Staff Show Strains of Social Discord," the memo describes the daily trials of the embassy's nine Iraqi workers.

"Some of our staff do not take home their American cell phones, as this makes them a target," it states. "Planning for their own possible abduction, they use code names for friends and colleagues and contacts entered into Iraq cell phones."

The cable makes clear that America has not won the hearts and minds of even the embassy workers' families. Fearing retribution from relatives, some of the workers have kept their employment by the U.S. Embassy a secret.

In the case of a Sunni Arab female employee, "mounting criticism of the U.S. at home among family members also makes her life difficult. She told us in mid-June that most of her family believes the U.S. - which is widely perceived as fully controlling the country and tolerating the malaise - is punishing populations as Saddam did."

Their resolve has been sapped further by the difficulties of living in the middle of a guerrilla war. "One colleague told us he feels 'defeated' by circumstances," the memo says.

The cable also suggests Iraq is coming under the control of Islamic fundamentalists who are terrorizing the country's mostly secular society.

Two of the three female Iraqi workers reported an increase since May of "harassment over proper dress and habits" and warnings not to drive or use cell phones. "Some groups are pushing women to cover even their face, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative," the memo says.

Women aren't the only targets of prudish militiamen. "It is now dangerous for men to wear shorts in public; they no longer allow their children to play outside in shorts," according to the memo.

The leaked Khalilzad memo makes quite clear conditions on the ground are getting worse, not better, in Iraq in the short term.

So how does the administration and its GOP compatriots plan to square the Casey troop withdrawl plan that is contingent upon progress in Iraq with the Khalilzad memo that says things are deteriorating without being called "cut-and-runners"?

When did the U.S. ever have a "grip" in Iraq?
Sorry, Howard, your comment went up before I revised the title of the post. It's a good question, though. And the Khalilzad memo sure is scary.

At least since this letter was found:

Oh,,, did that paragon of journalistic integrity the N.Y. Times fail to mention its existence?
arch stanton, what do you think about the Casey plan that was leaked today? Is it a realistic plan or just midterm season electioneering?
While I would not totally deny a political motive, Casey is eminently more qualified to make that recommendation than are the bulk of the Democrats who are calling for troop pull outs.

I think the Casey plan actually addresses the problems of a U.S. presence in Iraq whereas the Democrats plans are borne solely of politics, as they are markedly different when compared.
I agree that Casey is eminently qualified to make the decision on troop withdrawls. I suspect pressure is coming from above, however, to make that decision a little more quickly than perhaps he might be willing to make it. I do think Mr. Rove would like SOME troop withdrawls before the midterms (thus the political motive), which is why I greeted the leaked story with some cynicism, especially since many on the administration's side have spent the last two weeks decrying any kind of timetable for withdrawl that it sounds like the administration has been working on in secret.

What do you think of the letter that I linked to?
I suppose that soon enough, Cheney will refer to the leaked timetable for withdrawal as "giving aid and compfort to the enemy".
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