A Strategy for Iraq

In the forthcoming issue of Foreign Affairs, Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. provides a detailed analysis of the Iraqi insurgency and a much needed two part strategy to win.
The basic problem is that the United States and its coalition partners have never settled on a strategy for defeating the insurgency and achieving their broader objectives. On the political front, they have been working to create a democratic Iraq, but that is a goal, not a strategy. On the military front, they have sought to train Iraqi security forces and turn the war over to them. As President George W. Bush has stated, "Our strategy can be summed up this way: as the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." But the president is describing a withdrawal plan rather than a strategy.
Krepinevich's recommends the "oil spot" strategy, where American forces, and ultimately Iraqis themselves, provide safehavens where reconstruction can begin in earnest, without the fear of sabotage and destruction.
Each offensive would begin with Iraqi army units and their embedded U.S. advisers sweeping through the target area and clearing it of any major insurgent forces. These units would then break up into smaller formations and take up positions in towns (or, in the case of cities, sectors) of the cleared area, providing local security. National police would then arrive and begin security patrols and the vetting and training of local police and paramilitary security forces. As these efforts developed, Iraqi army units would switch to intensive patrolling along the oil spot's periphery to deflect insurgent threats to the newly secured area. A quick-reaction force made up of U.S. or Iraqi army units would deal with any insurgent penetration of the patrol zone. Iraqi and U.S. intelligence operatives would begin the process of infiltrating local insurgent cells and recruiting local Iraqis to do the same. Although current efforts at infiltration have produced spotty results, the oil-spot strategy would give U.S. and Iraqi intelligence forces the time needed to succeed by committing coalition forces to provide an enduring level of security.
The good news is that 14 of the 18 Iraqi provinces are already relatively secured. Focused attention would bring these areas into line with oil spot strategy. The bad news is that this slow process could require another two years or more to secure the four red zone provinces.

Krepinevich's suggests a Grand Bargain establishing a coalition between diffent segments of the Iraqi population as the second step of this strategy. All that is required is an Iraqi Karl Rove.
Stitching this coalition together would require a good understanding of Iraqi tribal politics. In many areas of Iraq, the tribe and the extended family are the foundation of society, and they represent a sort of alternative to the government. (Saddam deftly manipulated these tribal and familial relationships to sustain his rule.) There are roughly 150 tribes in Iraq of varying size and influence, and at least 75 percent of Iraqis are members of a tribe. Creating a coalition out of these groups would require systematically mapping tribal structures, loyalties, and blood feuds within and among tribal groups; identifying unresolved feuds; detecting the political inclinations of dominant tribes and their sources of power and legitimacy; and determining their ties to tribes in other countries, particularly in Iran, Syria, and Turkey.
Winning is Iraq is not an option, it is a necessity. According to David Brooks, those who are running the war in Iraq--the CIA, DOD, et al--are already discussing Krepinevich's strategy. At this point, more than two years in, any strategy is better than none.