The Campaign Plan

Dice "Reached by telephone in Baghdad, coalition spokesman Colonel Steve Boylan told VOA he expects the lengthy, classified document – five months in the making and several centimeters thick – will be finalized this week. He says it sets goals for establishing security that include progress in military, political and economic efforts, but he says troop levels will be determined later, after officials see how their plan is going.

"It doesn’t really address troop levels or troop strength," said Colonel Boylan. "This is more conditions-based type of document, type of planning. This is the strategic, big picture kind of planning that has to take place to give everyone else the direction they need to continue forward.""  VOA


Too much should not be made of this document.  "Campaign plan" is a term of art within the US military for a document that "lays out" what the senior commander in a theater of war intends to do over some extended period of time in order to accomplish the task that has been given him by the National Command Authority (NCA).  In this case Ambassador Crocker has been included in the planning process in order to get all US efforts in Iraq to function together rather than at cross purposes.  You can be sure that the CIA was consulted as well.  The plan does not require NCA approval because it is an implementing document rather than a proposal for something new.  It is a good thing that Petraeus is seeking to clarify for all what he is trying to do.

Like any plan this one is built to operate in a planning universe created by the assumptions on which the plan is based.  These assumptions are usually listed at the beginning of the plan so that everyone realizes that if these assumptions about the future do not "hold up" then the plan is no good and must be abandoned or modified.

This plan assumes that the Kagan/Keane plan "surge" has provided additional combat troops who have "turned the tide" in offensive operations in Anbar and Diyala governorates and that as a result of that "turn," increasing numbers of former secular or tribal insurgents are "rallying" to the Baghdad government’s cause and fighting the foreign jihadis that President Bush keeps talking about.  It is arguable that the people now "rallying" were increasingly outraged by the fanatic and dictatorial behavior of the jihadis and were looking for temporary allies against the jihadis.  A change in American policy towards such "ralliers" occurred last year and perhaps it was that change in policy that provided the "space" into which the "rallying" is happening.  If that is true, then the increased American troop presence is less important than is thought in Baghdad and Washington in official circles.  Nevertheless, it seems likely that the "campaign plan" will lead to efforts to expand offensive US combat operations into more and more governorates.  This will require the retention of the present force levels in Iraq and will inevitably lead to a desire to increase troop levels yet higher as I have written elsewhere.

The plan also assumes that the Maliki government will begin to make compromises over power sharing with Sunni Arab groups and that it will be possible to create a real community of interest between the central government and many small localities.  I think that is unlikely.  The problem between these two communities is over a thousand years old and is basic to their world views.  Accommodation between them will not be reached by urging the Shia to give up power to their former overlords.  It is more likely to prove to be that case that the non-jihadi locals are willing to reach accommodation with the Americans.

What the "campaign plan" intends to do about the Shia militia and Iran dominated south of Iraq is unclear.  The British are gradually leaving the area. Something like the elves leaving Middle Earth?  The Baghdad government’s writ does not run down there, or, if it does, then it runs the way the Ottoman Sultan’s writ ran in Tunis or Algiers.  What does Petraeus intend to do about that?

I suppose that Petraeus does not have much "say" in the matter of the "negotiations" with the Iranians.  In those talks it appears that we have adopted the traditional Middle Eastern approach to negotiations.  In that methodology the stronger party states its required outcome at the outset and then a continuation indicates that the weaker party accepts that outcome and the rest is details.  We have stated our desired outcome and the Iranians have rejected our assertions about their guilt in Iraq, but they want to continue talking.  This means that the two groups will talk until one side accepts the other’s "end state."  pl

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27 Responses to The Campaign Plan

  1. Binh says:

    I remember reading the story about the campaign plan in the WaPo and an adviser to Petraeus (some vets I know are calling him Betrayus) said that if the assumptions that it’s based on (reconciliation, etc) turn out to be false, then the whole thing will be junked and a new one developed. It made me really wonder if that’s likely given the Cheney administration’s defiance of the public as well as reality on the ground.
    At what point are they going to admit that the plan was based on faulty assumptions? Certainly not Sept. Perhaps spring and summer of ’08, or Jan. of ’09 when Bush leaves?

  2. dan says:

    A few observations about the South:
    Between them the Brits and the Danes had about 7500 troops in the Basra area at the beginning of the year. If the MoD withdraws a further 500 in the late Autumn, the total will be down to 5000 or so – interestingly, this spring the MoD was talking about reducing the number to 4000 by the year-end, a level which seems to have been abandoned for now.
    What has been evident in recent weeks is a serious upsurge in violence in Nasariya, Samawah, Numaniya and Amara – and that US airpower is intervening in these locations on a regular basis now.
    In Basra itself, the MoD casualty rate has doubled this year – on a pro-rata basis, the UK has been sustaining higher fatality rates amongst its troops than the US in recent months. A more disturbing trend is that the MoD are beginning to sustain fatalities and casualties from indirect fire onto their bases – which suggests to me that they are unable to fully secure their perimeters, that militia mortar/rocket fire is now hitting the “meat” rather than the margins, and that the MoD continues to be incapable of suppressing this.
    The UK public can remain phlegmatic in the face of 1-3 fatalities per week – it remains to be seen how much higher MoD casualties can go before a tipping point gets reached; my guess is that 40-80 fatalities over an 8-week period would put Brown in a VERY difficult position.
    It’s unclear what Petraeus can do about any of this – the best he can do is to send reinforcements.

  3. Cold War Zoomie says:

    In September, we’ll be told to be patient while they “work” this new plan.

  4. al palumbo says:

    I encourage everyone to read the essay Iraq: The Way To Go in the current issue of The New York Review of Books by former US Ambassador Peter W. Galbraith. He presents a sober analysis of the “lost war in Iraq” and probably the best way for the US to achieve some sort of stability in the region. All this talk by the Bushies of new plans and strategy adjustments and increasing troop levels fails to take into consideration the obvious fact that the Iraq of the neocons no longer exists. The money quote from the article: “We need to recognize, as Lugar implicity does, that Iraq no longer exists as a unified country. In the parts where we can accomplish nothing, we should withdraw. But there are still three missions that may be achievable-disrupting al-Queda, preserving Kurdistan’s democracy, and limiting Iran’s increasing domination. These can all be served by a modest US presence in Kurdistan. We need an Iraq policy with sufficient nuance to protect American interests. Unfortunately, we probably won’t get it.”

  5. Tim G says:

    An Eisenhower quote to ponder that captures some of what I think Pat is trying to convey: “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”

  6. Richard Whitman says:

    Two questions:
    1. What are the probable desired “end states” for us and the Iranians in Iraq 2.How many active AlQuaida insurgents are there in Iraq

  7. Fred says:

    I believe the campaign Bushco is worried about in the one in November 2008. He wants the US tied up so the new administration gets the blame.

  8. johnf says:

    Richard Whitman:
    >1. What are the probable desired “end states” for us and the Iranians in Iraq 2.How many active AlQuaida insurgents are there in Iraq?
    1. For the Americans, a state in which the present incumbents can declare victory in Washington. For the Iranians, a peaceful and stable Iraq ruled by Dawa and SCIRI.
    2. Not enough to prevent themselves getting wiped out as soon as the Coalition of the Willing leave Iraq.

  9. The following criticism of Harry Potter is provoking much debate in other corners of the blogosphere.

    But there have to be generally accepted rules. Characters can’t get out of the predicament the author is sick of by having the car suddenly start running on sand. Similarly, if your characters will be using magic, they must do so by some generally believable system.

    Yet in the Potter books, the costs and limits are too often arbitrary.
    A patronus charm, for example, is awfully difficult – until Rowling wants a stirring scene in which Harry pulls together an intrepid band of students to Fight the Power, whereupon it becomes simple enough to be taught by an inexperienced fifteen year old. Rowling can only do this because it’s thoroughly unclear how magic power is acquired. It seems hard to credit academic labour, when spells are one or two words; and anyway, if that were the determinant, Hermione Granger would be a better wizard than Harry. But if it’s something akin to athletic skill, why is it taught at rows of desks? And why aren’t students worn out after practicing spells?

    The low opportunity cost attached to magic spills over into the thoroughly unbelievable wizard economy. Why are the Weasleys poor? Why would any wizard be? Anything they need, except scarce magical objects, can be obtained by ordering a house elf to do it, or casting a spell, or, in a pinch, making objects like dinner, or a house, assemble themselves. Yet the Weasleys are poor not just by wizard standards, but by ours: they lack things like new clothes and textbooks that should be easily obtainable with a few magic words. Why?

    The answer, as with so much of JK Rowling’s work, seems to be “she didn’t think it through”. The details are the great charm of Rowling’s books, and the reason that I have pre-ordered my copy of the seventh novel: the owl grams, the talking portraits, the Weasley twins’ magic tricks. But she seems to pay no attention at all to the big picture, so all the details clash madly with each other. It’s the same reason she writes herself into plot holes that have to be resolved by making characters behave in inexplicable ways.

    Whatever merit this critique of Harry may have, would that Congress and the public generally had – and would – demanded at least as much of the Bush administration regarding Iraq.
    Everyone thought that it would be a “Shock and Awe” spectacular, in which the evil Voltemort / Saddam would be defeated, following which the Munchkin / Iraqis would induct us into the Lollipop Guild. Despite their prior protests, the complaining Europeans and “moderate” Arabs, like dutiful house elves, would come around, and take over the scut work and reimburse us for for our expenses. The public at large paraded around with yellow ribbon talismans attached to their SUVs, chanting “Support the Troops” incantations.
    According to Col. Lang:

    Like any plan this one is built to operate in a planning universe created by the assumptions on which the plan is based. These assumptions are usually listed at the beginning of the plan so that everyone realizes that if these assumptions about the future do not “hold up” then the plan is no good and must be abandoned or modified.

    At this late date – given our experience so far, I can only presume that the “assumptions” behind this plan are so much stardust.

  10. Charles says:

    Obviously, a main assumption is that the U.S. govt will completely free to do as he pleases, unfettered by anything coming out of Congress, the Iraqi government, or any of the more powerful governments in the region – Israel excepted, of course.
    Here’s how Juan Cole parses the recent US-Iran security meeting, which concluded with the US making the usual accusations against Iran.

    The Assumptions must be that the Saudis do not figure in current planning or do not see anything wrong with a potential US/Iran anti-Sunni campaign; that musings from Iran about increasing oil output to lower the price ber bbl would play no part in the Saudi’s “swing state producer reception to other
    machinations in the region; that the demonized Iranians, the existential threat to Israel are suitable security partners for the U.S. that Israel will have no interest in; that the Shia dominated Iraqi government magically begins to govern Iraq; and that 43’s mumblings about a Palestinian state are sincere and credible in such circumstances.
    But the biggest assumption must be, as alluded to by Duncan Kinder above, that “all the details [don’t] clash madly with each other.. . ” and characters can be counted on not to “behave in inexplicable ways.”
    Like say, “rallying” to some other (self)interest once their little patch of Iraq is cleansed of the alleged legions of foreign fighters(Americans excepted) at the held out as the root of all problems. Like say, cleansing the area of Infidels.

  11. Tim G says:

    Off topic, but I hear COL McMaster of Tall Affur and “Dereliction of Duty” fame did not get his first star. For all the (deserved) darts thrown at the civilian leadership, it seems the “Cardinals” can’t grasp what is going on in Iraq either.

  12. Jose L. says:

    I believe, that in the entire Islamic world there are four majority Shiite countries which are Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon. Only in Iran do Shiites have power. In the other three, Shiite have been oppressed and denied power by the Sunnis and in Lebanon add the Christians to the Sunnis. So why would Maliki cut a deal to share power with a group that will eventually turn against him and the Shiites? Why would Maliki turn on his only source of support which are the Iranians? I am no expert on the Middle East but this observation seens way to simple for Bush and the Generals to ignore.

  13. Poilu says:

    Colonel: Might I inquire what happened to the “Christopher Marlowe” thread? It’s “more than passing strange” that an entire posting and its accompanying comments should just disappear entirely from a public forum.
    Granted, it’s your blog. But it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in this particular reader / contributor to witness what at least appears to be an inexplicable, full “redaction” long after the fact. (Plus three of my own comments — one specifically addressed to you, relaying Ray McGovern’s account of his abortive meeting with Rep. John Conyers — are completely AWOL as a result.)
    “Down the Memory Hole?”

  14. Babak Makkinejad says:

    My sense of this, based on open sources, has been that Iran has been satisfied with these negogiations – perhaps more than US.
    I also think that Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are all terrified at the the prospect of break-up of Iraq.
    They want US to stay until the danger of Iraq’s breakup is passed. To wit, even Iranians, as far as I could determine based on open sources, are not looking for a Saigon moment for US in Iraq.

  15. michael savoca says:

    Here may be the larger plan…endless war, the rise of a private military primarily responsible to corporations rather than our government…and the plan was first, POSSIBLY advanced by our sitting president’s grandfather Prescott Bush as a member of a larger organization.
    A most interesting documentary on BBC channel 4 discusses the attempted coup against FDR by major US industrialists in response to the depression and FDR’s new deal which the industrialists hated.
    Presscott Bush, grandfather to the current president and many other super wealthy industrialists were members of a group, the American Liberty League, which supported bringing fascism to America and may have supported the coup attempt.
    Considering the well documented relationship between the steel works of Nazi Germany and Prescott Bush via Brown Brothers Harriman company, the above story gains some traction.
    General Smedly Butler twice congressional medal of honor winner, was recruited to lead the coup and he feigned support long enough to gather evidence and then expose the plotters to the government. He testified before congressmen John McCormack and Samuel Dickerstein and the commission on un-american activities in 1934 and named names but part of the record has been expunged. The BBC program is fascinating and the parralells with today and the abrogation of the constitution are alarming.

  16. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You are mistaken. This is a private forum, mine.
    The purpose of my CM post was that I wanted an e-mail from him for Stan Henning. He sent it to me. I forwarded it to Stan and that is all. pl

  17. W. Patrick Lang says:

    RM is a friend. He chose to do something that I would not do, but I applaud his willingness to follow his conscience in this and in all things. pl

  18. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Tim G
    I have been watching to see if McMasters is promoted. So far, no. Let us see if he retires as a colonel. Some of the best people do. pl

  19. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Babak, All, per US “plans” and policy, and regional reactions, here is a write up of my interview with the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs a few weeks ago in mid-June.
    The Middle East Crisis: View from the UAE
    By Clifford A. Kiracofe
    America’s Middle East policy is in disarray while the situation in the region is disintegrating rapidly.
    This is the warning I received during a recent visit to the United Arab Emirates.
    Iran and Iraq are neighbors across the Gulf so it is no surprise to find deep concern there about United States policy.
    The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Hussain al Sha’ali, a former ambassador to the United States, gave me a frank assessment of the situation.
    “The situation in the region is going from bad to worse,” he said. “We have the war in Iraq, the war in Somalia, the Palestine-Israel conflict, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the current situation, international terrorism, and the Iranian threat.”
    Washington’s rhetoric and surge aside, the situation in Iraq is clearly disintegrating.
    “The most devastating situation currently is Iraq,” al Sha’ali said. “There is no plan in the United States, no formula, no answer by the occupying power. So far nobody knows how to get out.”
    Friendly governments in the region warned the Bush Administration about any preventive war against Iraq.
    “We tried to advise the United States not to undertake the war,” he said. “Now there is a civil war in Iraq. The Maliki government has failed, and is not able to form a real national government which represents all the people and groups.”
    There is deep concern about Washington’s disastrous policy given the predictable chaos in the region.
    “The Iraq situation affects us in the region and is dangerous for the region,” al Sha’ali said. “Instability encourages extremists in our countries to follow the same path as we see in Lebanon today. There is a serious threat to the stability of all countries in the region.”
    More instability would be created if Iraq broke into three separate states along ethnic and religious lines, officials say.
    “Dividing Iraq is a totally unacceptable and unviable approach,” al Sha’ali said. “All countries in the region have minorities. You cannot divide them on an ethnic basis. There is no reason to think that the Iraqis cannot live together.”
    Dismemberment of Iraq would have grave regional implications, particularly for its neighbors.
    “It is very dangerous to divide Iraq,” he said. “It will spill over as a problem. Would Turkey agree to a Kurdish state in northern Iraq? ”
    Reflecting concerns of those living in the region, the cabinet official raised the question on everyone’s mind.
    “Just what is the United States going to do about it?” al Sha’ali said. “Iraq and the Iraqi people deserve peace. We have to see a plan.”
    Turning to the Iranian situation, the minister emphasized diplomacy.
    No one wants another war in the region.
    “We do not want to see another war in the region,” al Sha’ali emphasized. “It would be devastating to the countries in the region and to the world economy. We would be the first victims because our oil, our cities, and our investments are exposed.”
    Diplomacy is the best route.
    The United Arab Emirates and Iran have normal diplomatic relations and close economic relations.
    “Our political relations with Iran are normal,” al Sha’ali said. “We do have a problem as they have been occupying three of our islands since 1971. But Iran is our number one trading partner, so we have excellent trade relations.”
    In the final analysis, United States policy is the central question.
    “All depends on the US policy in the region,” al Sha’ali said. “Sometimes it appears the US believes that we do not have a public opinion. But, in fact, public opinion in the region is frustrated with the United States. After 911, the United States shut the door and it does not listen to the voice of the region.”

  20. Binh says:

    From Juan Cole’s blog:
    The military historian Tom Collier here in Ann Arbor wrote me on this plan,
    ” In its schools, the Army teaches a format for the study of any problem. It starts with “1. Assumptions,” and then goes on to facts bearing on the problem, conclusions, and recommendations. Students are taught that if the assumptions are incorrect, then the rest of the study will be invalid.
    The “detailed plan” that Michael Gordon reported seems to be based on two shaky assumptions:
    1. U.S. troops can use force to create “sustainable security” for the Iraqi government to function, and
    2. Given that security, the Iraqi government *will* function and will reach “political reconciliation” among “disparate factions,” provide basic services, and stop the violence.
    In other words, 1. we hope that we can put wings on a frog and, 2. we hope that the frog will then fly to paradise. And based on those assumptions, the “detailed plan” calls for U.S. troops to fight and die “until at least ’09.” Wow!!!” –Tom Collier

  21. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Clifford Kiracofe:
    More than a thousand years ago, there was a strong Persian presence in the Abbasid Khaliphate since the early Khalifs did nit trust the Arabs.
    The later Khalifs, fearing the Persians, killed the Persian officials and their families. And brought the Turkic (slaves) in to secure the Khaliphate.
    In time, the Turks became dominant and the Khalif a figure-head; similar to the Emperor and the Warlords in feudal Japan.
    The Persian Gulf Arabs do not trust other Arabs (Egypt, Syria, Libya, Jordan) and do not trust the Iranians (the Persains of our time).
    And they certainly do not trust the Pakistanis and Indians of this world either.
    So they have brought in the Americans who now are setting the agenda. And then they complain about US agenda not being theirs!
    I think that they have abdicated some of their perogatives as sovereign entities; like South Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, and Germany. With a lot of work, they may be able to reclaim it but I just do not think that Persian Gulf Arabs are structurally capable of doing that.
    To me, they are all, without question, Oil Wells with flags.
    Specifically about UAE – after 9/11 attacks on US there were days of jubilation and festivities in their cities.
    Why should US listen to them – I wouldn’t.

  22. mlaw230 says:

    A couple of perhaps unrelated questions which I hope the Colonel with his broad experience, or other posters, could help answer;
    1) Paranoia: It appears that much of our media has lost its way, and experienced a break with reality. Is it possible that our “propaganda ” programs include actual cash payments to domestic news organizations such as Fox News, The Washington Post Editorial Board, Steven Hayes, etc… to flog the Neocon line? If so, would that be illegal?
    What agency would be responsible for conducting such operations?
    2) Iran and the Maliki Government: It appears that the Maliki Government is as “pro” Iran as is conceivable under present circumstances.
    Nevertheless, we insist that Iran is a major fly in the ointment preventing its success. We have also formed an alliance of convenience with Sunni Tribesman in parts of Iraq, yet AQ in Iraq, which our President helpfully points out is AQ in Iraq (?!),is predominantly a Sunni movement.
    It seems counter intuitive that Iran would be actively fanning the flames of sectarian violence as they are already the big “winners” as a result of our policy.
    So, it appears that either our allegations are baseless as to Iran, or Iran is contributing only to violence against us for the purpose of making sure we do not establish a permanent presence next door, i.e. they would have an interest in running us out, but seem to have no interest in undermining the Maliki Government. What am I missing?

  23. GSD says:

    Speaking of Southern Iraq.
    Denmark has started pulling out their troops sooner and faster than expected because they are coming under such heavy attack.
    Sounds like the surge is working, for the in-surge-nts.

  24. Charles says:

    mlaw230 and michael savoca.
    I doubt there are cash payments to the entities m.s. posited, but as Kurt Cobain sang “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out there.
    There really is a ‘vast right wing’ conspiracy. But like Al-Qaeda, it is not centrally controlled from a dim room in the basement of the Whitehouse. But the conspiracy has managed to shift the social political debate and inure citizens to endless bullshit as their government services are dismantled or reformed to provide massive cash flows to the private sector, accountable to no electorate. Just a few terrorists have been elevated to an inordinately expensive and repressive threat more existential than the criminal gang that ruled the Soviet Union with their thousands of missles on hair trigger alert pointed at you. Your military and intelligence are being privatized with massive endowments of untendered contracts as an unaccountable private national security state apparatus with very deep and widespread roots is erected as the Constitution is abandoned by your Executive and legislatures.
    The best recent example is the U.S. Attorney firings. Everyone focuses on the firings, the propriety of same, and the Oscar caliber performance of the AG. But no-one aside from Greg Palast has pointed out the subtle purpose of the NEW U.S. attorneys, lost in the distractive parsing of Gonzales’ brain.
    All the changes occurred in districts where elections had small margins of victory. The new attorneys, staunch fellow travelers all, have been placed in those positions to ensure that when legal challenges arise in tight races, the “right” result is achieved, no matter what voter intention. Not that the latter has any appreciable impact on the program.
    Never mind caesarism; the stage is being set for fascism of the most religious flavour that requires perpetual war for perpetual rule that brooks no opposition.

  25. Babak Makkinejad says:

    On the Role of Saudi Arabia in Iraq

  26. jb vanover says:

    Definitely heading off a greater Sunni-Shia civil war that sucks in the region should be our first and utmost order of business.
    That our decider monkeys still view syria, iran through the ideological prism, and saudi arabia, egypt throught the expediency prism – it makes a hot shia-sunni civil war sloshing across multiple borders all the more likely.

  27. Todd Dugdale says:

    Wow, it’s nice to see some intelligent discussion beyond the “doncha wanna win?” crowd. I would just stick my toe in the water here and say it seems obvious that (Shia) Iran opposes the presence of (Sunni) Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
    The sectarian militias that we are uniting against Al-Qaeda are simply using us to wipe out the ‘competition’. The Iraqi military and Police are heavily infiltrated by these militias. They know all our moves and weaknesses. Once Al-Qaeda is rendered moot, they will turn on our troops with a vengeance.
    A failed state free of Al-Qaeda is still a failed state, and it won’t look like “victory” to anyone but the 28 percenters.

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