Not looking good, really. The Sunday Telegraph reports
A chastened President Bush was yesterday forced to promise changes to US tactics in Iraq as he convened crisis talks with senior generals.
In a radio address delivered as top officials gathered at the Camp David presidential retreat, he said he was prepared to order "every necessary change" to military tactics.
He also acknowledged, in a rare admission of failure, that a two-month campaign to pacify Baghdad has "not met our overall expectations".
Which Niall Ferguson helpfully glosses in another article in the same paper; that week, he tells us,
we heard two startling admissions that testify to the scale of crisis facing America’s unspoken empire.
The first admission came on Wednesday from George W. Bush himself. Asked by reporters if the situation in Iraq was comparable with that in Vietnam at the time of the 1968 Tet offensive — an event popularly (though wrongly) perceived as the beginning of the end for the American defence of South Vietnam — the President conceded the comparison "could be right".
The very next day, the spokesman for the US military command in Iraq confessed that the army’s latest effort to quell the escalating civil war in central Iraq "has not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence" (military-speak for "has totally failed").
The Observer provides a more detailed analysis of how
the entire future of Iraq and the US and British-led occupation has been brought to a tipping point of enormous consequence not simply for Iraq and the region, but for the Bush and Blair administrations.
For despite a massive campaign involving the troops of Vail’s unit and others, backed by thousands of Iraqi troops, the US military leadership in Baghdad has been forced to admit that attacks during the holy month of Ramadan have increased by 22 per cent, and that the US death toll for October, standing at 74 at the weekend, will be one of the deadliest for US troops since the invasion in 2003.
More worrying still is the assessment that both Sunni and Shia nationalist resistance movements have reached the level of being ‘coordinated/consolidated’ – able to reply to multinational offensives with their own ‘push capability’.
This was admitted explicitly last week by the top US spokesman in Baghdad, General William Caldwell. ‘We’re finding insurgent elements, the extremists, are pushing back hard. They’re trying to get back into those areas where Iraqi and US forces have targeted them,’ he said. ‘We’re constantly going back in to do clearing operations.’
We had an example of this earlier in the week, when British troops were put on
stand-by to move into Amara just two months after handing over the southern Iraqi city to local security forces.
The decision was taken after the Shia militia run by the anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr seized control of parts of the city. Street battles between police and his Mahdi Army left 25 people dead. […]
Amarah, a city of 350,000 people and the capital of Maysan province, was under British jurisdiction until August when the Army pulled out if its nearby base, Camp Abu Naji.
Britain said at the time that the departure was in response to an assessment that local security forces could maintain law and order and that the Army would be better used patrolling areas near the Iran border.
But yesterday’s fighting will raise further doubts about the potential disorder that could follow a British withdrawal from other parts of southern Iraq.
This casts a degree of doubt on the prospects for Mr Blair’s policy, which he explained on Thursday:
It is our policy to withdraw progressively from Iraq as the Iraqi forces are capable of taking on the security task. That is why it is important, when we are able to hand over to them, that we do so; otherwise we are a provocation rather than a help to them. That is why, earlier this year, we ceded control of al-Muthanna province, as there are now 5,000 Iraqi forces there doing that job. We are just withdrawing, or the Italians are, almost 3,000 forces from Dhi Qar province, where the Iraqis again will come in and do the job. We have already reduced our forces significantly over the past few years but, for example, we are working with the Iraqi forces to go through Basra part by part, making sure that we clean out the militia, put in place proper Iraqi security forces and undertake reconstruction. That is vital work, and I do not want to dismay our allies or hearten our enemies by suggesting that we will do anything other than stay until the job is done. I believe that it is a strength that there has been a bipartisan policy on this, and I hope that that is maintained.
A cold day in hell, then, if The Guardian/BBC video report by Sean Smith of his experiences with the 101st Division of the US Army is anything to go by; there the 101st end up having to arrest the Iraqi police they’re supposed to be training since the latter are apparently responsible for lobbing bombs at them. (See also A Big Stick and A Small Carrot for Garry’s informed take on this).
Not unreasonably, all this leads Henry Porter to ask
Over the course of little more than a week, we have learned that civilian casualties so far in the Iraq war may be more than 600,000; that Britain’s Chief of the General Staff believes the conflict could break the army apart; that a federal solution to the growing chaos involving the effective dismemberment of the country is being openly discussed in America; that the US Iraq Study Group, headed by Republican grandee James Baker, is recommending that the US military withdraws to bases outside Iraq and seeks Iranian and Syrian help; and that Britain is now the number one al-Qaeda target, partly, it seems clear, as a consequence of events in Iraq.
There should be at least one universal response to this in Britain. Why is Tony Blair still Prime Minister after leading his country into such a disastrous war? Any large company would by now have got rid of a managing director guilty of a mistake on that scale. Any institution you care to name would have done the same. Why is Blair immune from the normal requirements of high office?
Why, instead of being allowed by the cabinet to establish six new policy committees designed to entrench his legacy, has he not been impeached and thrown out of office? Even if his Iraq policy was formed in good faith, the scale of the error surely requires us to ask him and all those concerned with this disaster to leave.
Technorati tags: Iraq, Blair, War on Terror