More importantly, the team did not see how the plan could work. "The current plan hinges on an ability to suppress the insurgency to levels that the ISF [Iraqi Security Force] can handle on its own, which implies that the threat will be reduced before the transition," it notes. "Current operations have not succeeded in suppressing the level of the insurgency, and the campaign plan does not provide new or different approaches that offer greater promise in this regard."
And if the Americans were making little headway, the Iraqi security forces would fare worse. "The planned size of the ISF is likely to prove insufficient based on historical cases. The ISF, still an immature force, will be taking on the burden of security in 2006 and 2007 with inadequate funding and less experience, training and equipment than MNF-I," it added, using the acronym for Casey's multinational command.
The political ramifications of a failing strategy, the report concluded, were enormous. The hydra-headed insurgency might be emboldened is it thought that the main American goal was to disengage from Iraq. As a result, the insurgents could be "less likely to cut the political deals that would be needed to shore up the new Iraq."
Iraqis who had stood by the Americans might also lose confidence in their ally. "The fears of abandonment might lead the Iraqis to hedge their bets by developing greater reliance on Iran," the report continued. "If the transition to self-reliance takes place before the defeat of the insurgency, the Iraqi government and the insurgents could seek external support from neighboring states (e.g., Syria and Iran) in order to fight on, potentially leading to civil war along the lines of the one in Afghanistan in the 1990s."
Public support in the United States might be another casualty. "The American public might question whether a muddled outcome was worth the cost, especially since victory was not the goal."
Ink spotsHaving assessed the problem, the group proposed an "ink spot" approach in areas that would be secured and developed politically until a patchwork of safe zones was extended across the country. The notion of separating the population from the insurgency was classic counterinsurgency doctrine, the kind Petraeus would later espouse, and ran counter to a Casey strategy that focused on border control and transition to the Iraqis.
The Red Team assumed that the only U.S. forces available were the ones that were already on hand, which meant that there was no way to blanket the country. So it proposed the concentration of forces in specific areas to effect a mini-surge. The command, for example, could use the beefed-up security for the upcoming December elections to establish an initial ink spot, perhaps in Baquba or in the Fallujah-Ramadi corridor. As more ink spots were created in 2006, they would be linked in a "Two Rivers campaign" to control the population centers along the Tigris and the Euphrates.