OUR LEARNING CURVE

Fascinating and encouraging piece by Lawrence Kaplan in TNR on the emergence of a real, actual strategy to defeat the insurgency in Iraq. Change is finally happening:

Battalion commanders who prepared against a conventional enemy at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, prior to their first deployment to Iraq say that, when they returned to prepare for their second deployment, nearly all of the exercises involved guerrilla warfare. From West Point to the War College, the service schools have all added courses on the subject. As well as releasing a counterinsurgency field manual last year, the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command has a draft counterinsurgency doctrine waiting to be approved, and, last month, a counterinsurgency school even opened in Iraq, which incoming company and battalion commanders will attend as soon as they arrive in theater. Meanwhile, at the top, despite Casey’s insistence that “we’re applying counterinsurgency doctrine to the situation in Iraq, and doing it fairly well,” his approach is, even now, undergoing a profound revision. Tellingly, the shift comes as much at the behest of retired officers, think tanks, and civilian policymakers as it does from the accumulation of the Army’s own experience. The impetus also comes from two reviews of military strategy in Iraq, one commissioned by Casey himself and one by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad. Casey’s review, launched this summer, concluded that U.S. forces “generally have it about it right,” in the general’s own telling. Khalilzad’s review, also launched during the summer, concluded they don’t.

I have a feeling that Zalmay Khalilzad may one day be seen as the critical figure who turned the tide in Iraq.

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