An elite team of officers advising the US commander, General David Petraeus, in Baghdad has concluded that they have six months to win the war in Iraq - or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat.
the next six months are make-or-break for the US military and the Iraqi government. The main obstacles confronting Gen Petraeus's team are:
- Insufficient troops on the ground
- A "disintegrating" international coalition
- An anticipated increase in violence in the south as the British leave
- Morale problems as casualties rise
- A failure of political will in Washington and/or Baghdad.
According to a British source, plans are in hand for the possible southwards deployment of 6,000 US troops to compensate for Britain's phased withdrawal and any upsurge in unrest.
Morale is another concern in the Green Zone headquarters: American forces are preparing for a rise in casualties as the crackdown gathers pace. In a message to the troops after he assumed overall command last month, Gen Petraeus praised their sacrifices while warning of more "difficult times" to come.