The Jim Baker-led Iraq Study Group is getting all the attention -- especially since one of its members is poised to become the next Defense Secretary. But there's a second influential commission looking at new directions for Iraq, Inside the Pentagon reminds us: "A small group of officers assembled by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, [and] expected to conclude its work in December... Some observers anticipate the recommendations will call for a dramatic change of course in the Persian Gulf nation and perhaps in the war on terrorism more broadly."
Among the top ranks of the military, there is a growing consensus that more U.S. troops are needed to crush the insurgency and cultivate the support of an Iraqi public that is not yet convinced American forces will win, a number of well placed sources say.But that view is increasingly out of step with lawmakers and the American public, where pressure is mounting to establish "benchmarks" for the withdrawal of some or all U.S. troops.Back at the Pentagon, Paces group of colonels is taking a wide-ranging approach, examining holistically the strategies for securing Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as fighting the broader war on terror, defense sources tell ITP.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.Another risk Pace faces is that the new defense secretary or members of Congress will cherry-pick only some of his recommendations for implementation, potentially leaving the military with a watered-down version of a new strategy that would only work if carried out in toto, sources said.President Bush, for the time being at least, says he's "open to any idea or suggestion that will help us achieve our goals of defeating the terrorists and ensuring that Iraq's democratic government succeeds."