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Troops and Resources Are Stretching Thin

The United States cannot fight global terrorist networks effectively without redeploying troops from Iraq to focus more energy on Afghanistan.

This week MSNBS, NBC News, and The Christian Science Monitor joined the ranks of news outlets characterizing the current situation in Iraq as a “civil war.” The New York Times even goes as far as to say that the violence “puts Iraq in the top ranks of the civil wars of the last half-century.” Yet President Bush continued to assert yesterday that “pessimistic” assessments of his Middle East strategy will not persuade him from pulling troops out of Iraq before the mission is complete.

President Bush’s assertion came on the same day that he met with NATO to request much needed additional troops and resources for Afghanistan. A renewed commitment in Afghanistan is necessary to help boost the dramatically deteriorating security in the country, but NATO is unlikely to offer President Bush sufficient troops and resources for Afghanistan while his international credibility is low due to failed operations in Iraq.

The United States cannot make the necessary commitment in Afghanistan without redeploying troops from Iraq. American troops and resources are stretched to the breaking point already. It is time for the federal government to consider a reasoned, pragmatic plan for strategically redeploying our military forces in Iraq and around the region to fight our terrorist enemies in the most effective fashion possible.

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 over a year ago. We reiterated that call six months later as subsequent events underscored the need to act on our proposals. Today, the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan are even more dire.

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 must adjust to the grim realities on the ground.

Security in Afghanistan has similarly deteriorated over the past year. Taliban forces and al-Qaeda have strengthened. Insurgent attacks have reached 600 per month, compared to 150 per month last year, and so far this year 3700 to 4000 people have died in “insurgent-related violence.”

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.
  • 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:

  • Reduces U.S. troops to 60,000 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.

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

Contact our Iraq experts, 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.

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