Friday, May 14, 2004

The Rumsfeld-Myers Mission

Reader DB asks: "Does this explain the  Rumsfeld/Myers pow-wow on the E-4B?" referred to in End of the Beginning? That post, the readers may recall, rhetorically asked what the substantive purpose of Secdef Donald Rumsfeld's visit to Iraq might have been and the significance of both Myers and Rumsfeld traveling together on the sophisticated flying command post. The link, which is a DOD press release provided by DB, describes a major reorganization within the theater. It explicitly recognizes two channels of warfare: political and military.

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2004 – Two new military commands will stand up in Iraq May 15, replacing the current coalition military organization.

Multinational Corps Iraq and Multinational Force Iraq will replace Combined Joint Task Force 7.

Coalition military spokesman Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, at a Baghdad news conference today, said the change addresses a concern that a combined joint task force headquarters was not sufficient to handle the military workload in Iraq efficiently.

"It's certainly more than a formality," he said. "It is trying to get the proper command structure for the days, weeks and months ahead."

Kimmitt explained that Multinational Corps Iraq will focus on the tactical fight -- the day-to-day military operations and the maneuvering of the six multinational divisions on the ground. Army Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz will command the corps. Meanwhile, Multinational Force Iraq will focus on more strategic aspects of the military presence in Iraq, such as talking with sheiks and political leaders, and on training, equipping and fielding Iraqi security forces.

Multinational Force Iraq "will certainly be involved in the tactical operations, but only to the extent that they have somewhat of an operational and strategic impact on this country," Kimmitt said. Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, current CJTF 7 commander who will head MNF Iraq, already has been working the strategic issues, and the new command structure will enable him to focus more of his time and energy in that direction, Kimmitt said.

The most striking thing about this new command arrangement is that appears to be an end run around the Coalition Provisional Authority, a shifting of at least some political functions away from a State Department structure directly into one directly under the DOD. For those who saw the events in April as a defeat for Rummy and a discredit to the DOD policy, this evidence suggests that the President may see things the other way. At first glance it is a high level endorsement of the kinds of negotiations which have transpired at Fallujah at Najaf rather than their condemnation. This reading may not be borne out by subsequent clarifications. But it certainly looks that way.