Lt. Gen. David Petraeus
Task: appointed commander of U.S.-led coalition in Iraq
Lt. Gen. David Petraeus marks an appointment by President Bush that belies his determination for the United States to defeat the insurgents and stabilize Iraq. More than any other commander, Petraeus believes the U.S. military can foil the insurgency while pressing the Baghdad government to impose order on the country.
Petraeus stands apart from most of his colleagues. A general with a PhD in international relations from Princeton University, Petraeus has sought to redefine U.S. counter-insurgency doctrine. He believes insurgencies can be defeated by showing the population that the military, rather than the insurgency force, can protect the population. Once persuaded, the population then exposes the location and identity of the insurgency force.
"Ultimate success in COIN [counter-insurgency] is gained by protecting the populace, not the COIN force," states a new counter-insurgency manual, which Petraeus co-authored. "If military forces remain in their compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared and cede the initiative to the insurgents."
Under Petraeus, dubbed "King David," the coalition would be expanded with 21,500 U.S. troops and the focus would be on destroying the insurgency. The priority � in a mission expected to begin in February � would be Al Qaida and the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. The government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, himself a Shi'ite, would be assigned to eliminate the Shi'ite insurgency.
"The key for counter-insurgents is knowing when more force is needed and when it might be counter-productive," the manual reads.
Petraeus believes the U.S. military needs a lot more troops to defeat the insurgents and stabilize Iraq. But the Bush plan means that the United States would have about 165,000 troops in 2007, about 35,000 more than at the end of last year.
According to the manual, co-authored with Marine Maj. Gen. James Mattis, that is far from enough. The doctrine calls for 20 counter-insurgents per 1,000 residents as a minimum for effective operations. This means Baghdad would require 120,000 troops. The Iraqi capital has been slated to receive 85,000 Iraqi and U.S. soldiers.
Under Petraeus, the Iraqi insurgency would be redefined. The general believes that the Sunni insurgency operates mostly in a 30-mile radius around Baghdad and in the Anbar Province near Jordan and Syria. Baghdad would be divided into nine districts, with an Iraqi army brigade deployed in each. Each brigade would contain a U.S. support battalion 20 U.S. military advisers.
"The strategy is based on experience," an officer said. "Put a U.S. embed [adviser] into a platoon or even a company and the Iraqis begin to follow a role model. Soon, everybody is competing for who can be the best."
Already, change can be seen on the streets of Baghdad. On Jan. 9, Iraqi and U.S. forces fought a 10-hour battle on Baghdad's notorious Haifa Street. Military sources said the joint operation pulverized Sunni insurgents and was regarded as a major success.
The new U.S. strategy also calls for aggressive action against Iraq's neighbors who support the insurgency. Already, the U.S. military has been targeting Iranian intelligence agents in Iraq, arresting so-called diplomats in Baghdad and Irbil. Officials expect a similar effort against Syria, which supports the Sunni insurgency.