President Bush today stood before the press and the American people to insist that our brave soldiers must stay in Iraq until victory is achieved. He claims that America can only win the war in Iraq if it remains in the country until Iraq’s five-month-old elected goverment can defeat the Sunni insurgency and outside terrorists now operating in Iraq.
Apparently, the 12- to 18-month timetable that U.S. military commanders and diplomats in Iraq dictated to that nation’s completely fractious sectarian groups only yesterday is no longer operative. Indeed, Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki today disavowed the new timetable, telling reporters in Baghdad that he thought the plan was “a result of the ongoing election campaign” in the U.S.
For President Bush, the bottom line is still this: American troops must stay until the Iraqi government stands up. That’s nice, even clever, rhetoric, but it lacks almost any basis in reality.
Iraq, in reality, stands today between civil war and utter chaos. With fewer than three months remaining in 2006, the Third Quarter Report Card on Progress in Iraq by our by our sister organization, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, finds Iraq on the brink of collapse with growing violence, increased sectarian tensions, divisions in the Iraqi national government, and few significant advances in Iraq’s economic reconstruction. All indicators point to the utter failure of President Bush’s strategy for Iraq.
Iraq is a weak and failing state. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed, and there are at least two million civil war refugees and internally displaced Iraqs, including thousands of Christians who have faced increased persecution during the last three years. In three key areas outlined in the Bush administration’s “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq,” the United States has not achieved sufficient progress toward its goals.
First, the country is on the brink of total collapse. Second, the hoped-for political transition is effectively blocked by four internal conflicts between and among the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds that are spiralling out of control. Third, economic reconstruction is worse than stalled; the country is moving backwards. And worst of all, our continuing presence in Iraq is contributing to the recruitment goals of our real terrorist enemies and increasing the threat of terrorist attack on our country.
There is a better way. Since the President has decided to open up the debate about the correct course of action in Iraq (even before his handpicked Iraq Study Group led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Indiana congressman Lee H. Hamilton reports back to him by year-end), we will argue that Bush should consider a reasoned, pragmatic plan to strategically redeploy our military forces in Iraq and around the region to fight our terrorist enemies in the most effective and most lethal fashion possible.
One year ago the Center for American Progress issued its first report calling for a responsible exit from Iraq as part of a balanced global strategy to make Americans safer. We reiterated that call six months later as subsequent events underscored the need to act on our proposals. Today, the situation in Iraq is even more dire, and time is of the essence.
Violence in Iraq is spiraling out of control as it turns inward, with sectarian killings surpassing deaths from terrorist bombings and militias splintering the country. Squabbling among Iraqi leaders makes matters worse. America simply must adjust to the grim realities on the ground.
The Bush administration’s mistakes in Iraq—invading for the wrong reasons and without enough troops to secure the country—have left us with no good options. It is understandable that a growing number of Americans are calling for an immediate withdrawal, but we believe that would only further destabilize Iraq and much of the Middle East. Accordingly, we are calling for a comprehensive strategic redeployment from Iraq by the end of 2007 that will:
- Restore the strength of U.S. ground troops.
- Exercise a strategic shift to meet global threats from Islamic extremists.
- Prevent U.S. troops from being caught in the middle of a civil war in Iraq.
- Avert mass sectarian and ethnic cleansing in Iraq.
- Provide time for Iraq’s elected leaders to strike a power-sharing agreement.
- Empower Iraq’s security forces to take control.
- Get Iraqis fighting to end the occupation to lay down their arms.
- Motivate the U.N., global, and regional powers to become more involved in Iraq.
- Give the U.S. the moral, political, and military power to deal with Iran’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons.
- Prevent an outbreak of isolationism in the United States.
The end goals of this strategic shift are clear, but to accomplish it the United States must implement a policy of strategic redeployment that:
- Reduces U.S. troops to 60,000 by the end of 2006, and to zero by the end of 2007, while redeploying troops to Afghanistan, Kuwait, and the Persian Gulf.
- Engages in diplomacy to resolve the conflict within Iraq by convening a Geneva Peace Conference modeled on the Dayton Accords.
- Establishes a Gulf Security initiative to deal with the aftermath of U.S. redeployment from Iraq and the growing nuclear capabilities of Iran.
- Puts Iraq’s reconstruction back on track with targeted international funds.
- Counters extremist Islamic ideology around the globe through long-term efforts to support the creation of democratic institutions and press freedoms.
Only after the United States has set the conditions for redeployment out of Iraq in order to engage the global strategic threats our nation faces can Americans be rest assured that they will be safer. For more details on the report, please see our executive summary, the full report, and related materials gathered by the Center for American Progress elsewhere on our website.
Strategic Redeployment 2.0: Read the executive summary and full report here
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Former Senior Fellow