The Project on Defense Alternatives sends the following press release:
New proposal outlines “near-total” troop withdrawal by September 2006;
Early exit from Iraq depends on political compromise
The United States could safely withdraw almost all its forces from Iraq within a year or so without further destabilizing the country, according to a 19 July proposal by the Project on Defense Alternatives (PDA), a US-based think-tank. Progress toward that end requires a significant political compromise with the Sunni community and with Iraq’s neighbors, however.
In recent months, the idea that the Iraq occupation has become counter-productive has inspired several US congresspersons to offer withdrawal proposals. The PDA proposal goes a step further to address what its author, Carl Conetta, calls the “withdrawal dilemma.” Conetta explains:
“Although essential, troop withdrawal will not defuse the insurgency entirely. Some elements will fight on. Also, the conflict has gained an inter-communal aspect, Sunni versus Shia, which may persist or grow worse. Finally, the immediate positive impact of announcing a withdrawal time-line may not prove sufficient to allow a major shift of resources to the training of Iraqi security forces, which every withdrawal proposal views as key. So how do we create the initial “strategic space” to begin withdrawing troops confidently, while also shifting resources to training? This is the dilemma. The challenge is to ‘jump start’ the de-escalation process.”
The answer according to the PDA proposal is to seek political compromise with the Sunni community at all levels and with Iraq’s neighbors — especially Syria and Iran. The aim would be to immediately reduce both active and passive support for the insurgency, both inside and outside the country. “Practically speaking, the goal is to thoroughly isolate the foreign fighters and diehard Hussein loyalists,” says Conetta.
The necessary concessions would be a return to local governance in Sunni areas, a guaranteed level of representation for all provinces in the national assembly, an end to broad-brush measures of de-Baathification, an amnesty for most indigenous insurgents and for most former Baathists, and a de-escalation of the US confrontation with Syria and Iran. These political measures would be mated with a troop withdrawal time-line and some initial withdrawals.
The proposal sees Iran’s cooperation as especially important to gaining the assent of the Jaafari government. It views Syria and Saudi Arabia as similarly important with regard to the Sunni community.
“These policy changes are not contrary to the mission goals of achieving stability, democracy, and security in Iraq,” argues Conetta, “and they would allow withdrawal, training, and reconstruction to proceed.” The 400-day withdrawal timeline that PDA proposes is pegged to Iraqi troop training cycles. After 1 September 2006, a relatively small international military force would remain inside Iraq for monitoring and training purposes, under NATO command and UN auspices.
Author comment on the secret UK troop withdrawal proposal:
The PDA proposal comes just one week after the leak of a secret memo signed by UK Defense Minister John Reid disclosing an option to withdraw 100,000 troops from Iraq by mid-2006. The author of the PDA proposal, Carl Conetta, sees little hope for progress in the UK memo, however. “It describes a contingency plan — nothing more — and it fails to specify how the plan might be achieved,” said Conetta. “Pentagon planning apparently assumes, against all evidence, that continuing on the present course will eventually lead to improved conditions,” he said. Conetta speculates that the leaking of the memo is most likely a public relations maneuver meant to mollify critics. “The Administration plan offers a pocket-full of conditionals,” he asserts, “but lacks what the process most needs: bold new steps — including some initial withdrawals – beginning now.”
See our last post on Iraq.