Over the weekend, Fox News pundit Fred Barnes claimed that in September, Gen. David Petraeus will report “great progress and say [Baghdad] is heavily pacified.” That optimistic assessment is not shared, however, by one of Petraeus’ key advisers.
On CBS Evening News last night, Stephen Biddle, an early proponent of the escalation, argued that Bush’s strategy in Iraq is “likelier to fail than succeed at this point.” Biddle assessed that there is “maybe a one in ten” chance the escalation will succeed. “Maybe it’s a one in five longshot, if we play our cards right,” he said. Watch it:
Biddle is right to be cautious about the escalation’s success. Despite a brief lull at the beginning of the surge, sectarian murders in Iraq are on the rise again. Car bombings, chlorine bombs, and the use of children as bombers have all also increased. On Tuesday, May became not only the deadliest month for U.S. troops in 2007, but also the third deadliest month in the entire war.
DAVID MARTIN: This is David Martin. All the troops for the surge are now in Iraq. And U.S. military officers say American casualties are likely to go still higher when operations hit full throttle the second week in June. Compounding that grim forecast, Stephen Biddle, an advisor to the American commander in Iraq, says the odds against success are long.
STEPHEN BIDDLE: If I had to put a number to it, maybe it’s a one in ten. Maybe it’s a one in five longshot, if we play our cards right. There’s no question that this is likelier to fail than succeed at this point.
DAVID MARTIN: In an effort to wipe out insurgent strongholds, U.S. troops will be moving into parts of Baghdad and the surrounding countryside, where they have never been before. But even with the surge, former marine Bing West says, there aren’t enough troops to chase insurgents all over Iraq.
BING WEST: The insurgents move 60 to 100 kilometers in a night. And all of Iraq is so flat, has such terrific highways, that you can scoot very quickly from place to place.
MARTIN: According to Biddle, success depends on coercing insurgent factions into accepting a cease fire.
BIDDLE: 160,000 troops is not enough to secure the whole country. But it’s a powerful source of sticks and carrots. If we start using it selectively to reward those who cooperate and consider cease fires, and to punish those who don’t.
MARTIN: There are cease fire negotiations going on with insurgents, but for now one military officer says, “there out to kill us, we’re out to kill them.” David Martin, CBS News, the Pentagon.