Begin again

"Begin again" Continued...

Issue: "Hope or hype?," Jan. 20, 2007

Democrats in Congress seized on the risks inherent in the new Bush plan to call again for withdrawal, holding a set of hearings on the war and forcing a vote on a measure introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) to block a troop increase. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters after the speech that there was "no reason" for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq but acknowledged there are "limited opportunities for Congress to act."

What matters most to both sides of the debate is whether the Falcon Brigade and its follow-ons will succeed this time.

Changing the guard

President Bush nominated Adm. William J. Fallon, 62, to head U.S. Central Command. What's a naval aviator doing in charge of two ground wars? Senior officers say that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was looking to bring breadth of experience to a post covering both Iraq and Afghanistan. If confirmed by the Senate, Fallon will become the first naval officer in charge of CentCom and will make a lateral move from commanding Pacific forces-a job change with potentially no pay raise and a lot more headaches.

Gen. David Petraeus, 54, takes over as lead commander in Iraq after commanding the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion, supervising relative calm in northern Iraq, and later guiding the training of Iraqi soldiers. In 1991 he was shot in the chest in a training incident in Tennessee, and soldiers yanked off the golf course a surgeon named Bill Frist, later to become Senate Majority Leader, to save his life. His selection signals that a turn in U.S. strategy is real, as Petraeus recently authored an aggressive counterinsurgency manual for the Army and backs a rapid five-brigade expansion, in contrast to his predecessor, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who was skeptical that additional troops could make a difference.

Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, 52, will serve as No. 2 military commander in Iraq, exercising day-to-day control over operations. As commander of the 4th Infantry Division in 2003, Odierno supervised soldiers who captured Saddam Hussein outside Tikrit. If Iraq has devolved since then, observers say his aggressive style isn't likely to change, even with close-at-hand experience in the war: His son, Capt. Anthony Odierno, lost much of his left arm during a counterinsurgency mission in Baghdad in the summer of 2004.

Ryan Crocker will be appointed to take over as U.S. ambassador to Iraq after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Jan. 9 that current ambassador and Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad, 55, has been tapped to be the next U.S. ambassador to the UN. Crocker, 57, is current ambassador to Pakistan and a career diplomat with extensive Middle East experience. Khalilzad, if approved by the Senate, will become the first Muslim to sit in a U.S. Cabinet.


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