People who have spoken with Petraeus recently said he believes that politicians and journalists have put too much emphasis on the increase in troop numbers and too little on his intention to use them differently. Their top priority will be protecting the Iraqi population, following counterinsurgency doctrine laid out in a new Army manual, which he oversaw, that says "the people are the prize."The plan calls for large numbers of Iraqi and U.S. forces to flow into a targeted area like an ocean tide, temporarily overwhelming militia and insurgent fighters. But unlike in the past, when the tide goes out, it will leave behind a substantial residual force of Iraq army and police units, backed up by mobile U.S. troops. In this way, planners hope to "hold" neighborhoods rather than just "clear" them of the enemy.
This is not a new strategy. As you may recall, there was a lot of talk about the "clear and hold" strategy last year. The strategy failed. If Petraeus intends to use the troops to execute this strategy which was supposed to be implemented early last year, than it seems to me that the talk indeed should focus on the number of troops, because the only difference is the number of troops. And this plan places great reliance upon the Iraqi troops, who will be doing the "holding." And there is very little indication that we can rely upon the Iraqi troops to carry out their end of the plan, given stories as recent as this. Perhaps the media is not doing a good job explaining this nuance to the public, but at this point they are entirely correct to focus on the number of both American and Iraqi troops in this new escalation.