Thursday, July 12, 2007

ANALYSIS: The Iraq Study Group Does Not Call For Withdrawal of All U.S. Military Forces

Today the Senate will likely consider an amendment offered by Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) which would make the findings of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) the basis for future U.S. policy in Iraq. While the ISG recommended significant changes in U.S. policy in Iraq, it did not call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, and it envisioned a long-term, substantial deployment of U.S. military forces in the region.

The Iraq Study Group was a bi-partisan commission chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Member of Congress Lee Hamilton. Its 84 page report makes recommendations based on the political, economic and military situation in Iraq. It issued its report in December 2006. [You can find the full text of the ISG report on the U.S. Institute of Peace website at:]

The ISG report speaks specifically about the future role of the U.S. military in Iraq. In the section entitled “A Military Strategy for Iraq,” the report begins:

“There is no action the American military can take that, by itself, can bring about success in Iraq.” [pg. 48]


“…there are actions that the U.S. and Iraqi governments, working together, can and should take to increase the probability of avoiding disaster there, and increase the chance of success.” [pg. 48]

The primary steps needed to improve the situation in Iraq, according to the ISG, require that:

“The Iraqi government should accelerate the urgently needed national reconciliation program to which it has already committed. And it should accelerate assuming responsibility for Iraqi security by increasing the number and quality of Iraqi Army brigades. As the Iraqi Army increases in size and capability, the Iraqi government should be able to take real responsibility for governance.” [pg. 48]

During this process, the United States “should significantly increase the number of U.S. military personnel, including combat troops, imbedded in and supporting Iraqi Army units.” [pg. 48] These imbedded forces would advise and train Iraqi forces so that they could increasingly take over the security mission in Iraq.

According to the ISG, the role of U.S. forces in Iraq would be a much more limited one. As Iraqi forces take on an increasing share of the security burden, “we could begin to move combat forces out of Iraq. The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations. We should continue to maintain support forces, rapid-reaction forces, special operations forces, intelligence units, search-and-rescue units, and force protection units.” [Pg. 48]

But the ISG does not envision an immediate end to the role of the U.S. military in Iraq:

“Even after the United States has moved all combat brigades out of Iraq, we would maintain a considerable military presence in the region, with our still significant force in Iraq and with our powerful air, ground, and naval deployments in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar...” [pg. 49]

The ISG did look at the possibility of substantially increasing the U.S. military presence in Iraq. It considered, and rejected, proposals to significantly increase U.S. combat forces by 100,000 to 200,000. The ISG rejected the idea because it felt that such levels were unsustainable with the current U.S. military force structure, and because it felt that such an increase might worsen the security situation by re-enforcing the notion of the United States as an army of occupation.

The ISG did say, however, that it could support "a short-term redeployment or surge of American combat forces to stabilize Baghdad, or to speed up the training and equipping mission..." [pg. 50]

Further, the ISG opposed an immediate pull-out of U.S. troops. “We also rejected the immediate withdrawal of our troops, because we believe that so much is at stake.”
[pg. 50]

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