Thursday, April 6, 2006

Iraq War: Exit strategies

"I think we are winning.  Okay?  I think we're definitely winning.  I think we've been winning for some time." - Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the Iraq War 04/26/05

"I just wonder if they will ever tell us the truth." - Harold Casey, Louisville, KY, October 2004.

Thomas Mattair presents an overview of a number of proposals for getting the US out of Iraq that have been advanced in recent months:  Exiting Iraq: Competing Strategies  Middle East Policy Spring 2006.

In the process of doing so, he also comments on various aspects of the situation in Iraq.  For example, on the question of the Iraqis "standing up so we can stand down", which Bush mentions so often:

The handover of control to Iraqi forces has had very mixed results. In the south, in Najaf, a largely Shiite police force with militia elements now patrols a Shiite city. Cooperation with a Shiite-dominated Iraqi army may be expected, but what are the prospects for cooperation with the army if more Sunnis are part of it? U.S. forces were recently attacked outside the city. In Karbala, where Shiite police patrol a Shiite city, a suicide bomber killed 50 at a Shiite shrine in January. Five U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb outside the city days later.

In the north, in Kirkuk, a city with a mixed Kurdish, Sunni and Turkmen population, the Kurds are the majority in provincial and local government and the police force. Kurdish police are accused of killing Sunnis who oppose the return of Kurds to the oil-rich area from which Saddam ejected them. Sunni insurgents attack government and police targets, oil infrastructure and U.S. patrols. When protests recently erupted over rising fuel costs, the police called in U.S. forces and imposed a curfew. In Mosul, a city with a Sunni majority and a sizable Kurdish minority, the policeare largely Sunni and thought to be penetrated by Sunni insurgents. They have a record of not cooperating with Iraqi army forces in Mosul, which are largely Kurdish with some Shia elements.

In Samarra, a Sunni city northwest of Baghdad, U.S. forces are trying to hand off control, but they say the Sunni police are not ready and must be supplemented by special police commandos from the Interior Ministry who are primarily Shiite. In addition to problems of cooperation, both Sunni and Shiite police are targets of insurgents, with many killed recently and most not appearing for work. U.S. forces think Sunni police in Sunni areas could be effective in fighting Sunni insurgents because they know the territory and can gain intelligence. But Sunni insurgents also know the territory well enough to murder police and their families. And U.S. forces know that Sunni police may collaborate with Sunni insurgents. (my emphasis)

He also comments on how things are going in Fallujah, which Maverick McCain holds up as a model of how we should approach the Long War in Iraq:

U.S. forces continue to be killed in and around areas where success in driving out insurgents has been hailed, such as Fallujah. Sunni residents have not been very cooperative. They are alienated by the “collateral damage” they endure, because Iraqi forces left behind to hold the areas are largely Shiite, and because the insurgency continues to enjoy support or arouse fear even after being disrupted and weakened. Sunni insurgents - possibly al-Qaeda, possibly nationalists - kill Sunnis trying to join police forces in Anbar and elsewhere, such as the 80 killed in Ramadi in early January in a bombing that also killed two U.S. military personnel. U.S. forces have complained that some of the Sunnis in the Iraqi security forces sometimes collaborate with Sunni insurgents in Anbar, Diyala and elsewhere. Insurgent attacks against U.S. patrols and convoys and against critical oil and electricity infrastructure are often so well timed and precise that Sunnis inside the security forces, and also inside ministries of the central government, are suspected of collaborating with insurgents. There are ongoing U.S. talks with nationalist Sunni insurgents to elicit their help for U.S. and Iraqi operations against al-Qaeda and to exploit fighting between nationalist Sunni insurgents and al-Qaeda, but they have been unproductive so far.  (my emphasis)

He also makes this useful observation about the possible effects of US withdrawal on the insurgency and on Al Qaida:

Another question about the victory strategy is whether it is too pessimistic about the consequences of failure. The administration does not acknowledge that the large presence of U.S. troops is helping motivate both Iraqi and foreign fighters, although many generals and intelligence officials think so. Thus, withdrawal may help sap the insurgency somewhat. Moreover, it is unlikely that al-Qaeda will be able to implement its grand vision for Iraq and beyond. First, their numbers are small, and Iraq is the size of California. Second, secular Iraqi insurgents who do not share their grand vision will fight them if and when the United States withdraws. Third, U.S. forces outside Iraq but in the region will be able to undertake special operations against any safe haven in Iraq. Fourth, if al-Qaeda fighters are driven from Iraq and target neighboring countries, they will be hunted down by those regimes, which understand the threat. Fifth, al-Qaeda and its affiliates are already dispersed and carrying out attacks in Riyadh, Casablanca, Bali, Madrid, London and Amman. They already have global reach, and not all of them need to wait for U.S. withdrawal before dispersing to the West. This necessitates more international cooperation, greater efforts in the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and much better homeland security. But are U.S. forces in Iraq necessary?  (my emphasis)

"Wars are easy to get into, but hard as hell to get out of." - George McGovern and Jim McGovern 06/06/05

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