Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Gutknecht’s Iraq Plan – 10 year or 30 year plan ?

Gil Gutknecht is running a radio commercial in which he states that “HIS plan is the only plan for winning in Iraq.” He states that the Walz plan is diplomacy and “we’ve tried that before.” He states that the key to HIS plan is to build up the Iraq police force. Somehow, HIS plan sounds an awful lot like the one mentioned by President Bush at Fort Bragg on June 28, 2005 when he said “our military is helping to train Iraqi security forces so that they can defend their people and fight the enemy on their own. Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down."

It’s too bad that HIS plan is not on his campaign website so that voters could understand exactly what his thoughts are. In fact, his website is void of any mention of Iraq or the overall War on Terror. The issue statements that are presented relate to Agriculture, Health Savings Accounts, Prescription Drugs and Renewable Energy. Apparently those issues matter to Gutknecht, but the Federal Budget, Taxes, entitlement programs such as Social Security, Immigration, Ethics, Trade imbalances, Stem cells and Global warming / environment, etc. do not warrant a written position statement.

Basically, it sounds like nation building … something that Gutknecht opposed in Bosnia. Yet, nation building may be more involved than just policing / protecting the citizens … such as improving the economy which would reduce the unemployment levels which some have estimated to be 60 %.

The stability of the region is at stake … and Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey … as well as Syria and Iran have an interest … although each country may have different viewpoints. I would think that a 12 year Congressman would have an appreciation that diplomacy has a role.

For discussion stake, let’s accept Gutknecht’s plan. U.S. officials say Iraq now has nearly 310,000 security forces trained and equipped, including the army, the national and local police forces, and units to patrol the roads and borders. In Bush’s 2005 speech, 160,000 were stated as trained. Rumsfeld is presently reviewing a proposal to increase the number of trained security forces. Further, approximately 300 police have been killed in October thus far.

The Washington Post had an article in today’s paper which American military personnel are estimating that it could be decades before the Iraqi police forces are competent. Here are some excerpts :

"How can we expect ordinary Iraqis to trust the police when we don't even trust them not to kill our own men?" asked Capt. Alexander Shaw, head of the police transition team of the 372nd Military Police Battalion, a Washington-based unit charged with overseeing training of all Iraqi police in western Baghdad. "To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure we're ever going to have police here that are free of the militia influence."
The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., predicted last week that Iraqi security forces would be able to take control of the country in 12 to 18 months. But several days spent with American units training the Iraqi police illustrated why those soldiers on the ground believe it may take decades longer than Casey's assessment.
Seventy percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias, primarily the Mahdi Army, according to Shaw and other military police trainers. Police officers are too terrified to patrol enormous swaths of the capital. And while there are some good cops, many have been assassinated or are considering quitting the force.
"None of the Iraqi police are working to make their country better," said Brig. Gen. Salah al-Ani, chief of police for the western half of Baghdad. "They're working for the militias or to put money in their pocket."
The Iraqi police are not the only ones who feel unsafe. The American soldiers and civilians who train the Iraqis are constantly on guard against the possibility that the police might turn against them. Even in the police headquarters for all of western Baghdad, one of the safest police buildings in the capital, the training team will not remove their body armor or helmets. An armed soldier is assigned to protect each trainer.
"I wouldn't let half of them feed my dog," 1st Lt. Floyd D. Estes Jr., a former head of the police transition team, said of the Iraqi police. "I just don't trust them."
Jon Moore, the deputy team chief, said: "We don't know who the hell we're teaching: Are they police or are they militia?"
The difficulty of eliminating corruption and militias from the Iraqi police forces can be exasperating for the American soldiers who risk their lives day after day to train them. "We can keep getting in our Humvees every day, but nothing is going to work unless the politicians do their job and move against the militias," Moore said.
Sitting in the battalion's war room with four other members of his team, Moore estimated it would take 30 to 40 years before the Iraqi police could function properly, perhaps longer if the militia infiltration and corruption continue to increase. His colleagues nodded.
"It's very, very slow-moving," Estes said.
"No," said Sgt. 1st Class William T. King Jr., another member of the team. "It's moving in reverse."




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