In the Washington Post today, David Ignatius reports that the Bush administration's brand new plan for Iraq is to "focus on training and advising the Iraqi troops." As a number of people have pointed out, this sounds suspiciously like the old plan. But wait! There's more: The United States is also going to give up on the idea of "achieving a political reconciliation in Iraq," even though that was, supposedly, the whole idea behind the "surge." (As one senior official says, "Sectarian violence is not a problem we can fix.") Instead, they'll arm the Iraqi military and help the Shiite government, led by Nouri Al Maliki, "secure the country."
It's hard to tell how long this new strategy will last (after all, it was only a month ago that military planners were de-prioritizing troop-training). But this sounds a lot like the "unleash the Shiites" plan endorsed by some unnamed members of the Bush administration a few months back. The idea was to shorten Iraq's civil war by tilting the field toward one side. Meanwhile, the administration also wants to go hard after the "Iranian-backed sectarian militias" in the country. But who, exactly, do they think they're going to be "training and advising" in order to help Maliki "secure the country"? (Spencer Ackerman's piece in The Nation has much more on this.)--Bradford Plumer