Tuesday, March 14


Follow the bouncing ball.

President Bush vowed for the first time yesterday to turn over most of Iraq to newly trained Iraqi troops by the end of this year, setting a specific benchmark as he kicked off a fresh drive to reassure Americans alarmed by the recent burst of sectarian violence.
What constitutes control, however, depends on the definition, since no Iraqi unit is currently rated capable of operating without U.S. assistance. And vast swaths of Iraq have never been contested by insurgents, meaning they could ultimately be turned over to local forces without directly affecting the conflict.

Bush said 130 Iraqi battalions are participating in the battle with radical guerrillas, with 60 units taking the lead, an increase from 120 battalions and 40 in the lead when he last delivered major speeches on Iraq at the end of 2005. But Democrats pointed out that a Pentagon report last month showed that the number of Iraqi units rated "Level 1," or fully independent of U.S. help, has fallen from one to zero.

Bush says his goal is to have Iraqis control more territory than the "coalition" by the end of the year. Let's see. The total area of Iraq is 437,000 km. The Kurdish region amounts to 36,300 km, or about 8% of the total area (and the Kurds are, of all the Iraqi forces, the best prepared and positioned to police their own territory). The west and south of the country is desert and takes up 35% (we're up to 43% already). Almost 75% of Iraq's population live in the flat, alluvial plain stretching southeast from Baghdad and Basrah to the Persian Gulf.

See where I'm going with this? Bush could fulfill his "goal" of turning over more "territory" to the Iraqi forces than the "coalition" supervises just by ceding to the ill-prepared Iraqis the desert and the unoccupied territories.

Don't see how that would help our troops, though, do you?

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