The post-Election Day resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld may be a strong indication that a sharp turn in Iraq strategy is in the offing, according to experts. The Joint Staff review is being carried out in extraordinary secrecy. A spokesman for Pace said this week the group has no formal name but its role is "to assess what's working and what's not working" in Iraq and beyond. (...)Participants include Army Col. H.R. McMaster, who until earlier this year commanded a cavalry regiment that pacified the Iraqi insurgent stronghold of Tall Afar, though violence has since returned to that town. Another team member is Army Col. Peter Mansoor, who directs an Army-Marine Corps counterinsurgency school at Fort Leavenworth, KS. The Marine Corps reportedly has sent Col. Thomas Greenwood, director of the Marine Command and Staff College, and the other services are represented on the study team, as well.
The Joint Staff strategy review kicked off in late September and was originally slated to last 60 days, though it now appears work will continue into December, according to officials familiar with the group who are not authorized to speak for it. (...)
The results may prove surprising, some say. The Pace group is headed toward making some bold and unconventional recommendations -- ones that may demand consensus across party lines as Bush struggles to work with newly empowered Democrats in Congress. The president and a variety of lawmakers have staked out opposing positions on troop levels for Iraq and what their objectives and strategy should be.
If the various political factions dig in their heels on their respective concepts for Iraq, they might yet all agree on one thing: that the Pace recommendations are politically naive and dead on arrival, some officials warned.
The political context of the ISG recommendations being almost sure to be implemented -- the defensive ones at least -- means that this JCS led review may a) be politically dead as mentioned, but also b) still be highly interesting as it will most probably offer a peak into the newest military thnking about the wider war on terror in general and counterinsurgency in particular. So for strategic and intellectual if probably not so much for policy reasons, this is worth following.