3. Military Accused of Flawed Anti-Guerrilla Tactics

President George W. Bush’s new personal envoy in Baghdad, the veteran diplomat and political scientist Robert D. Blackwill, saved his most scathing criticism for the tactics employed by the US military command in Iraq against the pro-Saddam insurgency and its imported allies.

This is revealed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington and military sources.

Reporting back to the president, Blackwill disapproved of the way US armed forces’ combat activity is held down and troops kept in heavily-guarded compounds – all in the name of keeping US casualties down for fear of turning American opinion against the Iraq campaign.

While minimizing casualties is laudable, that is no way to win a war, said Blackwill.

He went on to put his finger on what he regards as the real problem: Not just American losses, but the increasing number of Iraqis killed and maimed every day, both at the hands of Saddam’s guerrillas and marauding criminal gangs. Blackwill finds that the steeply rising Iraqi civilian casualty toll is instilling in the country the sense that the United States is incapable of bringing security to Iraq. An increasingly number of Iraqis is consequently volunteering to join up with Saddam Hussein’s forces.

It is up to the US army therefore to face up squarely to its make-or-break task in Iraq. For this mission, American troops must leave the shelter of their compounds, plunge into the meanest urban alleys and remotest villages and enforce law and order. As long as they sit behind concrete blast walls, the American administration cannot expect to be respected or obeyed, he concludes.

The time has come, says Blackwill, to start counting how many Iraqis are dying for lack of order and security – not just Americans.

According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources, Bremer sat down with Sanchez over last weekend to try and persuade him to turn over a new tactical leaf in line with Blackwill’s recommendations to the President. The furious general refused point blank.

Senior officers who saw the general later said they had seldom seen him so angry. They quoted him as brushing Bremer aside and telling him to address his complaints to his bosses at the Pentagon. If new orders come down to him through the correct channels of command, Sanchez would obey them – not otherwise. In the meantime, he did not propose sending the troops out on street duty because a) he believed this policy would only raise US and Iraqi casualties, and b), because it was misguided.

The US Army counter-attacks

This week, the infighting in the US administration burst into public view, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources – in Baghdad and Washington.

On Tuesday, November 25, senior US officers informed reporters in Iraq that attacks on US forces had intensified and become more dangerous. The inference was that American troops were in enough peril already without being ordered out on the streets. In the Green Zone, Bremer hurriedly called the media to convey the opposite message: Assaults on the US military were declining while Iraqi civilians were targeted increasingly.

Only a few hours later, Rumsfeld, looking uncharacteristically tense and tired, faced the press with Myers in the Pentagon newsroom. But instead of commenting on the subject at issue, he let Gen. Myers do it. Taking a middle-of-the-road line, the general said attacks were increasing on US troops and Iraqi civilians alike and both threats had to be addressed.

Sanchez’s direct commanding officer, Gen. John Abizaid, has stayed out of the controversy, but DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources learn that Sanchez has put the word out at headquarters that he expects the Central Command chief to support him.

The Blackwill-Bremer-Sanchez war is so far unresolved. It awaits a decision from the commander-in-chief in the White House.

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