General Casey is shown to be a strong advocate for the "we'll stand down, as the Iraqis stand up" gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops, while the White House remained eager to "win" -- whatever that means anymore.
There are a few noteworthy items in the piece:
The Defense Intelligence Agency had briefed the White House in early 2006 that the insurgency was winning in Iraq, according to a former military officer. The briefing, which chronicled the steady rise in the number of attacks, prompted a counter-briefing from General Casey’s intelligence chief, who prepared an analysis tracing the positive trends in Iraq.
Data gathered by General Casey's own command, which showed a steady increase in weekly attacks and civilian casualties, lent support to the Defense Intelligence Agency assessment. ...
Later in June, General Casey flew to Washington to give briefings on the latest version of his troop reduction plan at the Pentagon and White House. The number of American combat brigades, which then totaled 14, would be reduced by two in September and might shrink to 10 by December, if conditions allowed. If the Iraqis continued to assume more responsibility for their security, there would be only five or six combat brigades in Iraq by December 2007.
Yet already President Bush was signaling to top aides that he wanted to re-evaluate how to keep stability before proceeding with troop withdrawals. His caution matched a growing unease among American field commanders in Iraq, and officers on the streets of Baghdad, who said they were surprised by General Casey's continued advocacy of withdrawals and consolidating bases. They said that American forces should be focusing on a greater counterinsurgency effort, which would require that a substantial number of troops be dispersed to protect that population against insurgent and militia attacks.
There is serious debate in Washington and at CENTCOM about how to conduct the counterinsurgency. A pertinent question involves how we can expect to prevail against a sectarian insurgency when we can present no compelling political action program to rally the civilian population behind. The Shiite-led "unity" government doesn't count. The Maliki government only makes matters worse.
Since there is really nothing the "coalition" can offer the Iraqis to motivate them into representing our interests in their beleaguered country, there is no possibility of the U.S. achieving anything any reasonable person would consider success.
A year ago, simply leaving Iraqis to live in peace would have been a victory.
Now we will have to set the bar even lower.