A new Center for American Progress report titled Strategic Reset calls for the withdrawal of virtually all U.S. troops within one year, and for the United States to “phase out its training of Iraq’s national security forces and place strict limits on further arming and equipping Iraq’s forces.”
Training security forces has been one of the main tenets of President Bush’s Iraq strategy. Bush has repeatedly stated, “As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down” and the United States has already invested $20 billion into training Iraq’s national army and police force. Other major Iraq strategies — including the Iraq Study Group and Congress’s war funding bill — also advocate continuing to fund Iraqi security forces.
But Strategic Reset charts a new course, arguing that this approach is actually contributing to the violence in Iraq:
First, the United States is arming up different sides in multiple civil wars that could turn even more vicious in the coming years. Second (and more important to America’s strategic interests) billions of dollars of U.S. military assistance is going to some of the closest allies of America’s greatest rival in the Middle East — Iran. The Shi’a-dominated Iraqi national army and security forces could quite quickly turn their weapons against American troops and allies in the region. […]
Training and skill-building are not crucial for Iraq’s security forces. In fact many of them have more training than hundreds of U.S. soldiers being deployed as part of this surge. Rather, the Iraqi forces’ problems are related to motivation and allegiance. In the past three years, the size of Iraq’s security forces and the levels of violence have both grown steadily, even as the U.S. troop presence remained constant.
Other highlights of Strategic Reset:
– Redeployment of U.S. troops: U.S. troops would begin withdrawing from Iraq by the summer of 2007, at the latest. “U.S. troop levels in Iraq could decline to about 70,000 by January 2008, with a full redeployment completed by September 2008.” Troops would rotate to Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, back to the United States, or to other “critical missions outside of Iraq.”
– Engage in global/regional diplomatic initiatives: The Bush administration needs to participate in regional conferences and engage in bilaterial discussions with Iran, ensuring that “the costs of intervening to exploit Iraq’s internal divisions are much higher than the benefits gained from working collectively to contain, manage, and utimately resolve Iraq’s internal conflicts.”
– Active leadership on the Arab-Israeli conflict: Bush should appoint a special Middle East envoy who would have the support of two senior ambassadors devoted to resolving Middle East conflicts. Not only does the United States need to negotiate with Iran and Syria to solve these issues, but it must also “remove any roadblocks it may have inappropriately placed in Israeli exploration of Syrian intentions.”
UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman at TPMmuckraker has more analysis.
UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias also has more.
See chart below for the correspondence between the levels of Iraq’s security forces and the violence in Iraq: