The Corner

Sweep, Clear, Don’t-Hold

It’s disturbing to read story after story about how US officers on these raids in western Iraq say they need more troops. Operations to “sweep, clear, and hold” become “sweep, clear, and don’t-hold” because we don’t have the guys to hold down these towns once we chase out the insurgents. Here is a defense official explaining once again–this is such a hashed-over debate–why we aren’t sending more guys to Iraq (quoting roughly and compressing a long conversation): “We’ve said this over and over, but it’s true. Neither Abizaid or Casey think more troops would help the problem. They want the sense of urgency to be on the Iraqis themselves to step up. And when there are a lot of IEDs going off, less is better than more. They may want to get more for the elections later this year. But otherwise there is going to be downward pressure. Abizaid in particular wants to reduce the American footprint. They don’t want more troops to get in the way. They don’t think we get good intelligence from our guys–we get it from the Iraqis. More troops wouldn’t add value offsetting the risks and the force protection needs, and it would keep the Iraqis from getting serious. There is no split with the White House over this. Thursday when Bush said we’re staying in Iraq, it was interpreted as some sort of rebuke of Casey. But that morning there was a videoconference with Bush and Casey where they were in complete agreement. The plan has always been that as Iraqis come online we sort of recede into the background. Casey is enthusiastic about this troop embedding [Americans embedded with Iraqi units], which he thinks is working and is giving Iraqi units the intangibles of leadership.” For what it’s worth…

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