Plan B if the surge fails: Baker/Hamilton mania!

Hey, we’re already well on our way. We’re talking to Iran now and, per Condi’s sidebar with the Syrian FM a few weeks ago, to Assad; by September, if there’s no substantial progress with the surge, some Republicans will be calling for a partial drawdown of troops. That’s the B-H special right there. David Ignatius bullet-points it:

Senior officials discussed the outlines of a “post-surge” policy late last week in what they said was an effort to build bipartisan support from Congress and the American public. Their comments appeared to be a trial balloon aimed at testing whether a Baker-Hamilton approach could gain traction in Washington. The description of a post-surge policy focused on elements that Democrats say they would continue to support, such as training the Iraqi military and hunting al-Qaeda, even as they set a timetable for withdrawing combat forces.

Here’s a summary of the policy ideas the officials said are under discussion:

· Train Iraqi security forces and support them as they gain sufficient intelligence, logistics and transport capability to operate independently.

· Provide “force protection” for U.S. troops who remain in Iraq.

· Continue Special Forces operations against al-Qaeda, in the hope of gradually reducing suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks on the Iraqi government. “That’s the accelerator for sectarian violence,” said one official.

I still haven’t grasped how U.S. special forces are going to maneuver against AQ in the midst of a full-scale Iraqi civil war, particularly when Sunni locals will be more inclined to shelter Al Qaeda by then given the role it’ll be playing as a sword against the Shia. Maybe Ahmadinejad will have some ideas. He’ll be helping us to “stabilize” Iraq by that point, don’t forget.

I might as well toss this at you too, since it’s making the rounds on the lefty blogs. Is Bush planning a second secret surge?

Not exactly:

The little-noticed second surge, designed to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq, is being executed by sending more combat brigades and extending tours of duty for troops already there.

The actions could boost the number of combat soldiers from 52,500 in early January to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year if the Pentagon overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades.

Separately, when additional support troops are included in this second troop increase, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 — a record-high number — by the end of the year…

Taken together, the steps could put elements of as many as 28 combat brigades in Iraq by Christmas, according the deployment orders examined by Hearst Newspapers.

In other words, they could overlap troops who are being rotated out with those rotating in by extending the former’s tours by a few months. That would only be a temporary fix, though, obviously, and given that September appears to be decision time and this wouldn’t happen until late in the year, it’s hard to see what benefit would come of it by then.

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