Congress this week takes up debate on the war in Iraq at a critical time for our military mission in that country and for our armed forces around the world. Bitter partisanship will surely define the debate, but America deserves better.
Members of both parties must face the facts about our current mission in Iraq against the backdrop of the crucial fight against resurgent global terror networks in that country, as well as in Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and elsewhere in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia. The death of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi was a major blow against one key terrorist network in Iraq, but his death has not ended the conflict in Iraq.
To achieve the bipartisan goals of a stable Iraq capable of defeating the insurgency and defending itself against foreign terrorists, America must begin a strategic redeployment of its armed forces from the country so that Iraqis can work out their political differences. This strategic redeployment must be coupled with intensified diplomatic efforts by the United States working with international allies and Iraq's neighbors to help Iraqis strike the power-sharing deals needed to stabilize the country. Only then will the sectarian conflict now engulfing the country perhaps be resolved. What's clear is this: The presence of American troops only contributes to forces of mayhem in Iraq.
Congress must also face the fact that the broader war on global terrorist networks is not going well – precisely because of the blood and treasure spent by the United States in Iraq at the expense of not completing our mission in Afghanistan to destroy those who attacked America on 9/11. They would do so again, and will do so unless the United States redeploys its military might to fight the growing power of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and its offshoots in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as the suddenly victorious Islamic extremists in Somalia.
Six months 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. Events since then have only underscored the need to act on our proposals. Violence in Iraq has not only increased but also turned viciously inward, with sectarian killings surpassing deaths from terrorist bombings and militias threatening to splinter the country.
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'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 by the end of 2007 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;
- Empower Iraq's security forces to take control;
- Get those Iraqis fighting to end the occupation to lay down their arms;
- Motivate the UN, 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:
- 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 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 Web site.
Strategic Redeployment 2.0: Read the executive summary and full report here (PDF)
For further details on why national security experts across the political spectrum consider America less safe today than at any time since 9/11, please see our research on the matter done in league with Foreign Policy magazine.
For further details on how Congress can help ensure America is safer from terrorist assault by exercising its oversight of the U.S. Intelligence Community more effectively, please read our recent report:
Also read our Memo to the Community on Iraq, covering the flaws with the Bush administration's Iraq policy and debunking conservative myths about the war (available on the Center for American Progress Action Fund):