Article

Time to Implement New Iraq Strategy

Baker-Hamilton Report May Mirror CAP's Strategic Redeployment Plan

Now more than ever, the United States needs to move swiftly to disengage our troops from Iraq and redeploy 20,000 soldiers to Afghanistan.

Speaking at a Campus Progress event at the Center for American Progress earlier this week, Lee Hamilton, the co-chairman of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, told Center for American Progress Distinguished Senior Fellow Sen. Tom Daschle and students from Campus Progress and Georgetown University that the group’s report had been finalized. According to Hamilton, the report will reflect the consensus view of the five Republican and five Democratic members upon its release on December 6.

Hamilton did not go into specific details about the Iraq Study group’s key recommendations, but leaks to the press before and after Wednesday night’s discussion suggest that the report will call for the gradual pull back of U.S. armed forces in Iraq in tandem with moves toward a diplomatic solution to the increasing chaos in the country.

If such reports prove to be accurate, the Center would welcome the new plan. Indeed, we applaud indications that many of the proposed recommendations track our own set of proposals in our Strategic Redeployment 2.0 Report. Now more than ever, the United States needs to move swiftly to disengage our troops from the burgeoning civil war in Iraq and redeploy 20,000 soldiers to Afghanistan in order to buttress that critical front in our fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. American military power cannot arrest the disintegration of Iraq occurring before our eyes, but military victory is still within sight in Afghanistan.

In Iraq, the concerted diplomatic push that will apparently be recommended by the Iraq Study Group could change the political conditions on the ground in Iraq so the country does not become a permanent terrorist haven. The Center’s strategic redeployment plan was first proposed eighteen months ago and updated earlier this year to reflect the rolling collapse of a country trapped between civil war and utter chaos. The plan details the diplomatic and military steps that need to be taken to extricate the United States from our current role as an unwanted occupation force and redirect our military might to fighting our real terrorist enemies with as much lethal force as we can muster.

As soon as the Iraq Study Group presents its findings to President Bush, the United States needs to:

1. Begin immediate redeployment of our forces out of Iraq while strategically repositioning our remaining forces within the country to help bring about a diplomatic solution to the ongoing civil war.

2. Set a definitive timetable for the withdrawal of all our forces within 18 months, and reiterate that the United States has no plans to maintain any permanent bases in Iraq.

3. Begin immediate diplomatic talks to gather all of Iraq’s neighbors—including Syria and Iran—and all legitimate Iraqi factions around the negotiating table so that a political resolution of the civil war can be reached before mass ethnic cleansing overtakes the country.

These are clear guidelines that would position the United States to help the Iraqi people find some stability after three years of increasing bloodshed. Unfortunately, President Bush said today after meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the U.S. had no plans to pull back American forces from Iraq. We hope the president’s stubborn stance is only political posturing before the Iraq Study Group presents its findings.

After all, there’s no escaping the results of the Bush administration’s mistakes in Iraq—such as invading for the wrong reasons and without enough troops to secure the country—which have left us with no good options. It’s 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 within 18 months that will:

  • Restore the strength of U.S. ground troops.
  • Exercise a strategic shift to meet global threats from Islamist 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 who are fighting to end the occupation to lay down their arms.
  • Motivate the U.N., global, and regional powers to get 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:

  • 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 can we engage the global strategic threats our nation faces and assure Americans that they will be safer.

Strategic Redeployment 2.0: Read the executive summary and full report here.

Contact our Iraq experts, Joe Cirincione, Lawrence Korb and Brian Katulis, for additional information and comments.

To contact one of our experts please call/e-mail Sean Gibbons, Director of Media Strategy, at 202-682-1611 or sgibbons@americanprogress.org.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.

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