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04/17/2008

One Senator''s Views On Iraq

Republican Senator Richard Lugar (IN) issued the following
statement as part of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
hearing on Iraq with Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker:

I join in welcoming General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker
back to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We commend
their skillful service in Iraq and the achievements that U.S.
military and diplomatic personnel have been able to bring
forward under their leadership. We are grateful for the decline in
fatalities among Iraqi civilians and U.S. personnel and the
expansion of security in many regions and neighborhoods
throughout Iraq.

Last week, the Foreign Relations Committee held a series of
hearings in anticipation of today’s inquiry. We engaged
numerous experts on the situation in Iraq and on strategies for
moving forward. Our discussions yielded several premises that
might guide our discussion today.

First, the surge has succeeded in improving the conditions on the
ground in many areas of Iraq and creating “breathing space” for
exploring political accommodation. Economic activity has
improved and a few initial political benchmarks have been
achieved. The United States took advantage of Sunni
disillusionment with al-Qaeda tactics, the Sadr faction’s desire
for a cease fire, and other factors to construct multiple cease-fire
agreements with tribal and sectarian leaders. Tens of thousands
of Iraqi Sunnis who previously had sheltered al-Qaeda and
targeted Americans are currently contributing to security
operations, drawn by their interest in self-preservation and U.S.
payments.

Second, security improvements derived purely from American
military operations have reached or almost reached a plateau.
Military operations may realize some marginal security gains in
some areas, but these gains are unlikely to be transformational
for the country beyond what has already occurred. Progress
moving forward depends largely on political events in Iraq.

Third, despite the improvements in security, the central
government has not demonstrated that it can construct a “top-
down” political accommodation for Iraq. The Iraqi government
is afflicted by corruption and shows signs of sectarian bias. It
still has not secured the confidence of most Iraqis or
demonstrated much competence in performing basic government
functions, including managing Iraq’s oil wealth, overseeing
reconstruction programs, delivering government assistance to the
provinces, or creating jobs.

Fourth, though portions of the Iraqi population are tired of the
violence and would embrace some type of permanent cease-fire
or political accommodation, sectarian and tribal groups remain
heavily armed and are focused on expanding or solidifying their
positions. The lack of technical competence within the Iraqi
government, external interference by the Iranians and others, the
corruption and criminality at all levels of Iraqi society, the
departure from Iraq of many of its most talented citizens, the
lingering terrorist capability of al-Qaeda in Iraq, seemingly
intractable disputes over territories and oil assets, and power
struggles between and within sectarian and tribal groups all
impede a sustainable national reconciliation. Iraq will be an
unstable country for the foreseeable future, and if some type of
political settlement can be reached, it will be inherently fragile.

Fifth, operations in Iraq have severely strained the U.S. military,
and these strains will impose limits on the size and length of
future deployments to Iraq, irrespective of political decisions or
the outcome of the election in our country. Last week, before the
Senate Armed Services Committee, General Richard Cody, the
Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, testified: “Today, our Army is
out of balance. The current demand for forces in Iraq and
Afghanistan exceeds our sustainable supply of soldiers, of units
and equipment, and limits our ability to provide ready forces for
other contingencies. Our readiness, quite frankly, is being
consumed as fast as we can build it. Lengthy and repeated
deployments with insufficient recovery time at home station have
placed incredible stress on our soldiers and on their families,
testing the resolve of the all-volunteer force like never before.”
Later in the hearing, General Cody said “I’ve never seen our lack
of strategic depth be at where it is today.”

The limitations imposed by these stresses were echoed in our
own hearings. General Barry McCaffrey asserted that troop
levels in Iraq have to be reduced, stating that the Army is
experiencing “significant recruiting and retention problems” and
that 10 percent of recruits “should not be in uniform.” Major
General Robert Scales testified: “In a strange twist of irony for
the first time since the summer of 1863 the number of ground
soldiers available is determining American policy rather than
policy determining how many troops we need .The only point
of contention is how precipitous will be the withdrawal and
whether the schedule of withdrawal should be a matter of
administration policy.”

If one accepts the validity of all or most of these five premises,
the terms of our inquiry today are much different than they were
last September. At that time, the President was appealing to
Congress to allow the surge to continue to create breathing space
for a political accommodation. Today the questions are whether
and how improvements in security can be converted into political
gains that can stabilize Iraq despite the impending drawdown of
U.S. troops. Simply appealing for more time to make progress is
insufficient. The debate over how much progress we have made
and whether we can make more is less illuminating than
determining whether the Administration has a definable political
strategy that recognizes the time limitations we face and seeks a
realistic outcome designed to protect American vital interests.

Our witnesses last week offered a wide variety of political
strategies for how we might achieve an outcome that would
preserve regional stability, prevent the worst scenarios for
bloodshed, and protect basic U.S. national security interests.
These included focusing much attention on building the Iraqi
army, embracing the concept of federalism, expanding the
current bottom-up cease fire matrix into a broader national
accommodation, negotiating with the Iraqis in the context of an
announced U.S. withdrawal, and creating a regional framework
to bolster Iraqi security.

But none of our witnesses last week claimed that the task in Iraq
was simple or that the outcome would likely fulfill the ideal of a
pluralistic democratic nation closely aligned with the United
States. All suggested that spoiling activities and the fissures in
Iraqi society could undermine even the most well-designed
efforts by the United States.

Unless the United States is able to convert progress made thus far
into a sustainable political accommodation that supports our
long-term national security objectives in Iraq, this progress will
have limited meaning. We cannot assume that sustaining some
level of progress is enough to achieve success, especially when
we know that current American troop levels in Iraq have to be
reduced and spoiling forces will be at work in Iraq. We need a
strategy that anticipates a political end game and employs every
plausible means to achieve it.

---

Hot Spots returns next week.

Brian Trumbore


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-04/17/2008-      
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Hot Spots

04/17/2008

One Senator''s Views On Iraq

Republican Senator Richard Lugar (IN) issued the following
statement as part of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
hearing on Iraq with Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker:

I join in welcoming General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker
back to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We commend
their skillful service in Iraq and the achievements that U.S.
military and diplomatic personnel have been able to bring
forward under their leadership. We are grateful for the decline in
fatalities among Iraqi civilians and U.S. personnel and the
expansion of security in many regions and neighborhoods
throughout Iraq.

Last week, the Foreign Relations Committee held a series of
hearings in anticipation of today’s inquiry. We engaged
numerous experts on the situation in Iraq and on strategies for
moving forward. Our discussions yielded several premises that
might guide our discussion today.

First, the surge has succeeded in improving the conditions on the
ground in many areas of Iraq and creating “breathing space” for
exploring political accommodation. Economic activity has
improved and a few initial political benchmarks have been
achieved. The United States took advantage of Sunni
disillusionment with al-Qaeda tactics, the Sadr faction’s desire
for a cease fire, and other factors to construct multiple cease-fire
agreements with tribal and sectarian leaders. Tens of thousands
of Iraqi Sunnis who previously had sheltered al-Qaeda and
targeted Americans are currently contributing to security
operations, drawn by their interest in self-preservation and U.S.
payments.

Second, security improvements derived purely from American
military operations have reached or almost reached a plateau.
Military operations may realize some marginal security gains in
some areas, but these gains are unlikely to be transformational
for the country beyond what has already occurred. Progress
moving forward depends largely on political events in Iraq.

Third, despite the improvements in security, the central
government has not demonstrated that it can construct a “top-
down” political accommodation for Iraq. The Iraqi government
is afflicted by corruption and shows signs of sectarian bias. It
still has not secured the confidence of most Iraqis or
demonstrated much competence in performing basic government
functions, including managing Iraq’s oil wealth, overseeing
reconstruction programs, delivering government assistance to the
provinces, or creating jobs.

Fourth, though portions of the Iraqi population are tired of the
violence and would embrace some type of permanent cease-fire
or political accommodation, sectarian and tribal groups remain
heavily armed and are focused on expanding or solidifying their
positions. The lack of technical competence within the Iraqi
government, external interference by the Iranians and others, the
corruption and criminality at all levels of Iraqi society, the
departure from Iraq of many of its most talented citizens, the
lingering terrorist capability of al-Qaeda in Iraq, seemingly
intractable disputes over territories and oil assets, and power
struggles between and within sectarian and tribal groups all
impede a sustainable national reconciliation. Iraq will be an
unstable country for the foreseeable future, and if some type of
political settlement can be reached, it will be inherently fragile.

Fifth, operations in Iraq have severely strained the U.S. military,
and these strains will impose limits on the size and length of
future deployments to Iraq, irrespective of political decisions or
the outcome of the election in our country. Last week, before the
Senate Armed Services Committee, General Richard Cody, the
Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, testified: “Today, our Army is
out of balance. The current demand for forces in Iraq and
Afghanistan exceeds our sustainable supply of soldiers, of units
and equipment, and limits our ability to provide ready forces for
other contingencies. Our readiness, quite frankly, is being
consumed as fast as we can build it. Lengthy and repeated
deployments with insufficient recovery time at home station have
placed incredible stress on our soldiers and on their families,
testing the resolve of the all-volunteer force like never before.”
Later in the hearing, General Cody said “I’ve never seen our lack
of strategic depth be at where it is today.”

The limitations imposed by these stresses were echoed in our
own hearings. General Barry McCaffrey asserted that troop
levels in Iraq have to be reduced, stating that the Army is
experiencing “significant recruiting and retention problems” and
that 10 percent of recruits “should not be in uniform.” Major
General Robert Scales testified: “In a strange twist of irony for
the first time since the summer of 1863 the number of ground
soldiers available is determining American policy rather than
policy determining how many troops we need .The only point
of contention is how precipitous will be the withdrawal and
whether the schedule of withdrawal should be a matter of
administration policy.”

If one accepts the validity of all or most of these five premises,
the terms of our inquiry today are much different than they were
last September. At that time, the President was appealing to
Congress to allow the surge to continue to create breathing space
for a political accommodation. Today the questions are whether
and how improvements in security can be converted into political
gains that can stabilize Iraq despite the impending drawdown of
U.S. troops. Simply appealing for more time to make progress is
insufficient. The debate over how much progress we have made
and whether we can make more is less illuminating than
determining whether the Administration has a definable political
strategy that recognizes the time limitations we face and seeks a
realistic outcome designed to protect American vital interests.

Our witnesses last week offered a wide variety of political
strategies for how we might achieve an outcome that would
preserve regional stability, prevent the worst scenarios for
bloodshed, and protect basic U.S. national security interests.
These included focusing much attention on building the Iraqi
army, embracing the concept of federalism, expanding the
current bottom-up cease fire matrix into a broader national
accommodation, negotiating with the Iraqis in the context of an
announced U.S. withdrawal, and creating a regional framework
to bolster Iraqi security.

But none of our witnesses last week claimed that the task in Iraq
was simple or that the outcome would likely fulfill the ideal of a
pluralistic democratic nation closely aligned with the United
States. All suggested that spoiling activities and the fissures in
Iraqi society could undermine even the most well-designed
efforts by the United States.

Unless the United States is able to convert progress made thus far
into a sustainable political accommodation that supports our
long-term national security objectives in Iraq, this progress will
have limited meaning. We cannot assume that sustaining some
level of progress is enough to achieve success, especially when
we know that current American troop levels in Iraq have to be
reduced and spoiling forces will be at work in Iraq. We need a
strategy that anticipates a political end game and employs every
plausible means to achieve it.

---

Hot Spots returns next week.

Brian Trumbore