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Iraq: New U.S. Commander Lays Out His Plan

General Petraeus testifying in the Senate on January 23 (epa) January 25, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Army Lieutenant General David Petraeus, U.S. President George W. Bush's nominee to become the top commander in Iraq, has outlined his strategy to crush the insurgency.

Petraeus laid out his plans for Iraq in detail on January 23 before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, which is considering whether to confirm him.

'Hard Is Not Hopeless'

"The situation in Iraq is dire," Petraeus told the senators. "The stakes are high. There are no easy choices. The way ahead will be very hard. Progress will require determination and difficult U.S. and Iraqi actions. Especially, the latter, as ultimately the outcome will be determined by the Iraqis. But hard is not hopeless."

"Should I determine that the new strategy cannot succeed, I will provide such an assessment," Petraeus promised lawmakers.

Petraeus said progress would require time, even with the help of the more than 21,000 additional troops that Bush plans to send to Iraq.

"It will take time for additional forces to flow to Iraq, time for them to gain an understanding of the additional areas in which they will operate, time for them to plan with and get to know their Iraqi partners, time for them to set conditions for the successful conduct of security operations and, of course, time for them to conduct those operations and build on what they achieve," Petraeus said. "None of this will be rapid. In fact, the way ahead will be neither quick nor easy, and there undoubtedly will be tough days."

Petraeus says he will push tens of thousands of additional U.S. and Iraqi troops deep into the capital's neighborhoods. Their task will be to root out insurgents and militias, and then maintain control of the neighborhoods as secure areas.

Results By Late Summer

Petraeus told the legislators this shift to "controlling" terrain could be risky for U.S. troops -- who until now have been based outside neighborhoods in Forward Operating Bases.

And he said that by late summer it should be clear whether the new plan is working or not. "Should I determine that the new strategy cannot succeed, I will provide such an assessment," he promised lawmakers.

Petraeus is widely considered in Washington to be the best-qualified man for the job. He has twice before held command positions in Iraq and is credited with bringing stability to the northern city of Mosul in 2004.

Petraeus, 54, is also considered to be one of the most intellectual of U.S. commanders. He has a doctorate from U.S.-based Princeton University and helped draft the Army's new counterinsurgency manual.

The general maintains that an insurgency cannot be beaten without popular support, and he stresses the need for intelligence and for the intelligent use of force. He also puts high importance on training local forces as partners.

These views are fundamental to his new plan for Baghdad.

Before moving into neighborhoods, U.S. units will assess their partner Iraqi units, meet the local leaders, and learn about the sectarian tensions specific to the locale.

Petraeus said the strategy has worked in other Iraqi cities, including Al-Fallujah and Tal Afar, where the U.S. worked to create "gated communities" to monitor and control the flow of people in and out of an area.

On The Verge Of Civil War

On The Verge Of Civil War

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THE COMPLETE PICTURE: Click on the image to view RFE/RL's complete coverage of events in Iraq and that country's ongoing transition.