Military officials and Pentagon consultants, speaking on the condition of anonymity to the L.A. Times, said that the plan--based on American experiences in el Salvador in the 1980s--would allow for a withdrawal of US forces and renewed emphasis on training Iraqis.
But a drawdown of forces would be in line with comments to Congress by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates last month that if the "surge" fails, the backup plan would include moving troops "out of harm's way." Such a plan also would be close to recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, of which Gates was a member before his appointment as Defense Department chief.
A strategy following the El Salvador model would be a dramatic break from President Bush's current policy of committing large numbers of U.S. troops to aggressive counterinsurgency tactics, but it has influential backers within the Pentagon.
"This part of the world has an allergy against foreign presence," said a senior Pentagon official, adding that chances of success with a large U.S. force may be diminishing. "You have a window of opportunity that is relatively short. Your ability to influence this with a large U.S. force eventually gets to the point that it is self-defeating."
Recent public comments by Joint Chiefs chairman Peter Pace may indicate that he lends support to the reported Salvador approach to quelling the insurgency.
On February 6, 2007, while giving testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Pace's answer to a question posed by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) revealed the deep differences in strategic vision that currently divide US military leadership.
SEN. LINDSEY O. GRAHAM (R-SC): Will we have enough to meet the counterinsurgency doctrine of General Petraeus? GEN. PETER PACE: In pure math terms, no, sir. In terms of what is needed on the ground to get the job done, yes, sir, meaning that their talk about 50 to 1 or whatever it is to -- to 1 that you need to quell a generic insurgency -- we helped in El Salvador with 55, and that turned out the way we wanted it to. And we have 140,000 in Iraq, and that has not yet turned out the way we want it to.