While Washington is mired in a political debate over the future of Iraq, the U.S. command in Iraq has prepared a detailed plan that foresees a significant U.S. role for the next two years, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top U.S. commander and the U.S. ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008, and "sustainable security" to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, U.S. officials familiar with the document were quoted as saying.
The detailed document, known as the Joint Campaign Plan, is an elaboration of the new strategy President George W. Bush signaled in January with the decision to send five additional combat brigades and other units to Iraq. That signaled a shift from the previous strategy, which emphasized transferring to Iraqis the responsibility for safeguarding their security.
That new approach put a premium on protecting the Iraqi population in Baghdad, on the theory that improved security would provide Iraqi political leaders with the breathing space they needed to try political reconciliation.
The latest plan, which covers a two-year period, does not explicitly address troop levels or withdrawal schedules. It anticipates a decline in American forces as the "surge" in troops runs its course later this year or in early 2008. But it nonetheless assumes continued American involvement to train soldiers, act as partners with Iraqi forces and fight terrorist groups in Iraq, American officials said.
The plan, developed by General David Petraeus, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador, has been briefed to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral William Fallon, the head of Central Command.
The plan envisions two phases. The "near-term" goal is to achieve "localized security" in Baghdad and other areas no later than June 2008. It envisions encouraging political accommodations at the local level, including with former insurgents, while pressing Iraq's leaders to make headway on their program of national reconciliation.
The "intermediate" goal is to stitch together such local arrangements to establish a broader sense of security on a nationwide basis no later than June 2009, the New York Times report said.