Critics of the current war effort say making Casey either chief of staff or Centcom commander would send the wrong signal — essentially endorsing a strategy that the president acknowledges has failed.
“It would be a terrible thing,” said one military analyst with close ties to the Pentagon. “He’s the guy who’s losing the war.”
The leading candidate from the counterinsurgency advocates is Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, a highly respected military thinker who led the 101st Airborne Division during the Iraq invasion in March 2003.
In his current job as head of the Army’s leading military schools, Petraeus oversaw the rewriting of the Army and Marine counterinsurgency field manual, which was issued last week and argues that while killing insurgents is often important, the most vital task in a counterinsurgency is winning the support of the population.
The manual also argues for moving soldiers out of large bases into smaller outposts among the local population. Such manpower-intensive tactics run counter to those now used by Abizaid and Casey. Currently, troops clear dangerous Baghdad neighborhoods with regularity but, because of their limited numbers, must quickly turn over long-term security responsibilities to unprepared Iraqi units, which frequently results in backsliding.