Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The .pdf heard round the world

The Iraq Study Group report is available on this website.

This report calls for a reduced American combat presence by 2008. The situation on the ground appears to be so bad that I am not certain where that date came from, other than it is several "Friedmans" in length. Additional American combat advisers are strongly recommended. You should read this adviser's account from The Nation for how complicated it is to assist foreign military formations. Major Edmonds wrote:
American soldiers are angry and frustrated with Iraqis. Iraqis are angry and frustrated with Americans. Many Iraqis just want American soldiers to go away, and I struggle within myself not to agree. Day after day I observe the interactions of Americans with Iraqis and am often ashamed. I see that required classes given to all American soldiers on cultural sensitivity do not work; 100,000 or more American soldiers daily interacting, engaging and fighting Iraqis within their own society for more than three years will inevitably create a wellspring of citizen hostility. In this war, none of us can change who we fundamentally are.

American military culture interacts with Iraqi Islamic culture like a head-on collision. And massive deployments of American soldiers fighting a counterinsurgency now hurts more than it helps. When we focus on the military solution to resolve a social problem, we inevitably create more insurgents than we can capture or kill. As a consequence, real "Islamic terrorists" subverting their own tolerant religion will use this popular anger and sense of resentment to their advantage. As much as they hate and fear us, they also say that we cannot just leave the mess that we have made.
The AP has excerpts:
''Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another. If they are effectively implemented, and if the Iraqi government moves forward with national reconciliation, Iraqis will have an opportunity for a better future, terrorism will be dealt a blow, stability will be enhanced in an important part of the world, and America's credibility, interests and values will be protected.''
"By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq," the report says.

"At that time, U.S. combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces, in rapid-reaction and special operations teams and in training, equipping, advising, force protection and search and rescue."

The report warns of the consequences of inaction.

"If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighboring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shia clashes could spread. Al Qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized," the report says.
This report seems like more of the same, only with a sterner delivery and much more gravitas than previous advocates. The Iraqis are told to reinforce the unifying aspects of the unity government.

James Baker just said that American policy must be focused "more broadly" than on just military action. Reducing the combat formations in the country makes sense, after all there are insufficient combat formations in the country as is. This report asserts that a number of recommendations must be implemented at the same time to reinforce each other. They are good recommendations. But, achieving just the necessary contingent of competent U.S. forces training Iraqis (perhaps 20,000) will be a massive undertaking. It's also late 2006. These recommendations would have been great in 2003 or 2004.


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