John Burns reports:
The new American operational commander in Iraq said Sunday that even with the additional American troops likely to be deployed in Baghdad under President Bush’s new war strategy it might take another “two or three years” for American and Iraqi forces to gain the upper hand in the war.
The commander, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, assumed day-to-day control of war operations last month in the first step of a makeover of the American military hierarchy here. In his first lengthy meeting with reporters, General Odierno, 52, struck a cautious note about American prospects, saying much will depend on whether commanders can show enough progress to stem eroding support in the United States for the war.
So, the war will last two or three more years unless the American people lose their resolve and stab our forces in the back. Got it. As for our troops not getting involved in a sectarian civil war, don’t worry:
General Odierno contrasted his approach with the last effort to secure Baghdad, effectively abandoned for lack of enough Iraqi troops last fall.
Then, American troops conducted house-to-house clearing operations before moving on to other neighborhoods, leaving the holding phase of the operation to Iraqi troops, who failed to control the areas and forced Americans to return. This time, the general said, American troops would remain in the cleared areas “24/7,” to stiffen Iraqi resolve and build confidence among residents that they would be treated evenhandedly.
Equally important, he said, coalition troops would move into both Shiite and Sunni neighborhoods. That, too, would break with the pattern set last fall, when American troops concentrated on known Sunni insurgent strongholds, especially Dora, in southwest Baghdad. This time, the general said, it was crucial the security plan be evenhanded. “We have to have a believable approach, of going after Sunni and Shia extremists,” he said.
Going into Shiite neighborhoods, particularly the sprawling working-class district of Sadr City, the base for the powerful Mahdi Army militia that has spawned Shiite death squads, will risk new strains in the relationship between American commanders and the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
Enjoy the surge.