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Planing for Retreat
Vietnam Strategy for Iraq

Sacrificial lamb

Anybody surprised? The military is reportedly planning to dust off its withdrawal strategies to apply them to Iraq, should the current escalation—when the current escalation proves to be Bush's latest blunder. The military isn't calling it the Vietnam strategy. Rather, it's the Salvador strategy: fewer people know about it, so it has fewer of the connotations of disaster that Vietnam conjures up. From the LATimes: “American military planners have begun plotting a fallback strategy for Iraq that includes a gradual withdrawal of forces and a renewed emphasis on training Iraqi fighters in case the current troop buildup fails or is derailed by Congress. Such a strategy, based in part on the U.S. experience in El Salvador in the 1980s, is still in the early planning stages and would be adjusted to fit the outcome of the current surge in troop levels, according to military officials and Pentagon consultants who spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing future plans. But a drawdown of forces would be in line with comments to Congress by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates last month that if the "surge" fails, the backup plan would include moving troops "out of harm's way." Such a plan also would be close to recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, of which Gates was a member before his appointment as Defense Department chief. A strategy following the El Salvador model would be a dramatic break from President Bush's current policy of committing large numbers of U.S. troops to aggressive counterinsurgency tactics, but it has influential backers within the Pentagon. "This part of the world has an allergy against foreign presence," said a senior Pentagon official, adding that chances of success with a large U.S. force may be diminishing. And the Pentagon is discovering this what, four years after the war began?

“At the same time, the war has created divisions within the Pentagon. Some support the new commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, who advocates using more American forces to protect Baghdad neighborhoods, whereas others back the position of Gen. John P. Abizaid, the retiring commander for the Mideast, who favored handing responsibility more quickly to Iraqis. [...] The El Salvador case study contrasts with the soldier-heavy example of Vietnam and the current buildup in Iraq. In El Salvador, the U.S. sent 55 Green Berets to aid the Salvadoran military in its fight against rebels from 1981 to 1992, when peace accords were signed. Years after, the U.S. role in El Salvador remains controversial. Some academics have argued that the U.S. military turned a blind eye to government-backed death squads, or even aided them. But former advisors and military historians argue that the U.S. gradually professionalized the Salvadoran army and curbed the government's abuses.” The full story...

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