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Iraq: Sinking Confidence

Published on: March 16th 2007 18:29:05

Despite the bold face he maintains in public, President Bush is being advised in private that military prospects in Iraq are unhopeful. A typical evaluation from Pentagon counter-insurgency experts is that, far from pulling back from contested neighborhoods, anti-American insurgents “are spying on us, waiting for us to make a mistake, then striking.” Outside Bush’s immediate circle, there is thus little confidence in Washington that the increase in US forces will achieve sufficiently rapid progress to stem the continuing erosion of public support for the war. National Security Council officials tell us, however, that there is no readily available alternative. The multilateral political approach represented by the Iraq Study Group – originally dismissed, as we reported, by Bush as a “flaming turd” – is now receiving more attention, but here too confidence levels are low. The way forward for the White House is thus uncomfortable. Its plans for extended engagement, including suggestions from General Petraeus, the commander in Iraq for higher force levels are increasingly colliding with domestic political pressures calling for a drawdown of US forces. We continue to believe that we are now entering the “end game” of the US presence there.

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