January 11, 2007
Dear Mr. President:
The new strategy for Iraq, as you outlined to the American people last night, represents an innovative use of military forces to stabilize and secure Baghdad, in particular. The “Baghdad 3-to-1 Plan” uses a combination of three Iraqi battalions and one U.S. battalion, in a back-up and mentoring role, in each of 9 security sectors in that city. This plan leverages the Iraqi military’s unique ability to operate in an urban environment and among the Iraqi people and allows Americans to support these operations, as necessary, with intelligence, special operations, firepower, precision strike, and logistics capabilities. This plan allows for combined U.S.-Iraqi operations that will provide Iraqis with invaluable combat experience, develop Iraqi military capabilities, and reinforce their confidence. It also allows a U.S. battalion commander to evaluate, first-hand, the maturity of the Iraqi battalions and help determine the timing of an effective, lasting hand-off of security responsibilities to Iraqi military forces.
I appreciate these aspects of the Baghdad 3-to-1 plan. In fact, I propose that this plan serve as a template so that the U.S. military replicates this 3-to-1 model throughout Iraq. U.S. forces should work with Iraqi soldiers outside of Baghdad in the same supportive way so that, at the end of the day, they can hand-off security responsibilities with confidence that their Iraqi counterparts are prepared and willing to accept those responsibilities.
Moreover, implementing this model does not depend upon Iraqi forces fielding the full range of military capabilities. It requires only modestly trained soldiers with the most basic weapons, communications, transportation, and medical gear. Iraqis can develop more advanced capabilities, over time and as needed, while they operate side-by-side with U.S. forces and also after U.S. forces leave.
As you and I have regularly discussed, Iraqi battalions, which are trained and equipped and which are located in relatively peaceful provinces, must rotate through “the heart of battle” to gain combat experience. The new strategy does deploy 9 such battalions into Baghdad. However, I recommend going further and working with the Iraqi Government to ensure that all Iraqi battalions participate, at some point, in combat tours in “hot-spot” areas. Not only will such redeployment battle-harden these units, but the mobilization effort will reinforce civilian control of the military, help develop the military chain of command, and minimize any province-specific affiliations of the military forces.
Implementing this new strategy for Iraq, including the Baghdad 3-to-1 plan, provides a significant opportunity to modify the U.S. military course throughout the entire Iraqi nation. I strongly encourage you to consider my recommendations with a view toward developing a confident, capable Iraqi national military force that is ready and willing to accept security responsibilities for all Iraqi people throughout their country.
With best wishes.
Cc: Honorable Robert M. Gates