Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 3, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

FUBAR IN FALLUJAH?....This is inexplicable. Reasonable people can disagree about whether it was wise to engage an Iraqi force to pacify Fallujah, but can't we at least decide whether or not that's what we're actually doing?

The Washington Post reports that Jassim Mohammed Saleh now has about 600 soldiers under his command, although "it remained unclear exactly where those troops were."

Meanwhile, General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talked to Fox News about the new Fallujah Brigade and said Saleh "will not be their leader."

So the commanders in Iraq are talking about Saleh as if he's the guy in charge, but in Washington they say he's not. How's that again?

The decision to form the Fallujah Brigade and put Saleh in charge was made from "the bottom up," [a] senior official said. "Now we have to have a policy to catch up with what is happening on the ground."

A Marine spokesman did not have any immediate reaction to Myers's comments, and it was not clear whether Saleh would comply with a U.S. order to relinquish command of the new force.

One U.S. military official said that step could prove tricky. "We've just told him he can form a brigade and take over the city," the official said. "Now we're telling him that he has to step aside? Do we just expect him to go home?"

There's also disagreement about whether the Marine units surrounding Fallujah have actually pulled back or not. Myers says no, the Post reporters in Iraq say yes.

It's hard no, it's impossible, really to believe that a decision as important as withdrawing U.S. troops from Fallujah and replacing them with an Iraqi unit led by Saleh was done at the "bottom" without agreement from the very highest levels, so why is everyone pretending otherwise? This was a dicey but defensible decision when it was first made, but these latest hiccups don't give me an awful lot of confidence that anyone's really in charge here. It's beginning to have the look of a pretty serious FUBAR.

Kevin Drum 12:58 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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