Jeffrey LewisAn Iraqi Enclave Strategy

I spoke with a military officer who suggested that the recent civil violence in Iraq had accelerated implementation of an “enclave” strategy in Iraq. He thinks this may help us turn the corner; I think he is nuts.

The creation of the “Fallujah Brigade” (which was briefly to be headed by a Saddam henchman) was presaged in a September 18, 2003 Wall Street Journal article:

Senior U.S. military officials say they plan to gradually pull U.S. troops to the edges of Iraq/’s major cities in the next three months and turn much routine day-to-day policing inside the country over to Iraqis.

The first moves in that strategy could be visible in Baghdad as soon as December. The U.S. Army/’s First Armored Division plans to consolidate its 35,000 troops — now scattered among some two-dozen forward operating bases throughout Baghdad — to four larger bases on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital. Even after the shift, which should be complete by March or April, the U.S. would still maintain a presence in Baghdad and be responsible for protecting highly sensitive targets such as the Coalition Provisional Authority and conduct counterterrorism raids.

The U.S. could then begin relocating some troops from more stable portions of Iraq to more remote bases to protect against insurgencies and foreign threats.

“What we/’re trying to do is to get away from policing . . . and move toward more traditional military tasks like protecting the sovereignty of a country,” said Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, which oversees all U.S. troops in the Middle East and Central Asia, in an interview.

At the same time the military was planning to implement the enclave strategy, Bush was still telling U.S. service-men and -women “You/’re defeating Saddam/’s henchmen, so that the people of Iraq can live in peace and freedom.”

Except for the 67% of Iraqis who live in urban areas.

On a related note, CNN is reporting that Al-Sadr is giving a televised speech. The CNN anchor pointed out that live television appearances are an odd choice for someone with an outstanding arrest warrant, prompting the reporter in Iraq to note the U.S. military “can/’t really go where he is …”

Does anybody think this is going to work?

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