[Mb-civic] Time for An Iraq Timetable - (Sen.) Joseph R. Biden Jr.
- Washington Post Op-Ed
swiggard at comcast.net
Sat Nov 26 06:07:01 PST 2005
Time for An Iraq Timetable
By Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Saturday, November 26, 2005; A25
The question most Americans want answered about Iraq is this: When will
our troops come home?
We already know the likely answer. In 2006, they will begin to leave in
large numbers. By the end of the year, we will have redeployed about
50,000. In 2007, a significant number of the remaining 100,000 will
follow. A small force will stay behind -- in Iraq or across the border
-- to strike at any concentration of terrorists.
That is because we cannot sustain 150,000 Americans in Iraq without
extending deployment times, sending soldiers on fourth and fifth tours,
or mobilizing the National Guard. Even if we could, our large military
presence -- while still the only guarantor against a total breakdown --
is increasingly counterproductive. A liberation has become an occupation.
There is another critical question: As our soldiers redeploy, will our
security interests in Iraq remain intact or will we have traded a
dictator for chaos?
There is a broad consensus on what must be done to preserve our
interests. Recently, 79 Democratic and Republican senators told
President Bush we need a detailed, public plan for Iraq, with specific
goals and a timetable for achieving each one.
Over the next six months, we must forge a sustainable political
compromise between Iraqi factions, strengthen the Iraqi government and
bolster reconstruction efforts, and accelerate the training of Iraqi forces.
First, we need to build political consensus, starting with the
constitution. Sunnis must accept that they no longer rule Iraq. But
unless Shiites and Kurds give them a stake in the new deal, they will
continue to resist. We must help produce a constitution that will unite
Iraq, not divide it.
Iraq's neighbors and the international community have a huge stake in
the country's future. The president should initiate a regional strategy
-- as he did in Afghanistan -- to leverage the influence of neighboring
countries. And he should establish a Contact Group of the world's major
powers -- as we did in the Balkans -- to become the Iraqi government's
primary international interlocutor.
Second, we must build Iraq's governing capacity and overhaul the
reconstruction program. Iraq's ministries are barely functional. Sewage
in the streets, unsafe drinking water and a lack of electricity are all
too common. With 40 percent unemployment in Iraq, insurgents do not lack
for fresh recruits.
We need a civilian commitment equal to our military effort. Just as
military personnel are required to go to Iraq, the president should
identify more skilled foreign service officers to help.
This should not be their burden alone. Britain proposed that individual
countries adopt ministries. It's a good idea that we should pursue. We
must redirect reconstruction contracts away from multinationals and to
Countries that have pledged aid must deliver it. So far, only $3 billion
of the $13.5 billion in non-American aid has made it to Iraq. And the
president should convene a conference of our Gulf allies. They have
reaped huge windfall oil profits -- it's time they gave back.
The third goal is to transfer authority to Iraqi security forces. In
September, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. acknowledged that only one Iraqi
battalion -- fewer than 1,000 troops -- can fight without U.S. help. An
additional 40 can lead counterinsurgency operations with our support.
The president must set a schedule for getting Iraqi forces trained to
the point that they can act on their own or take the lead with U.S.
help. We should take up other countries on their offers to do more
training, especially of officers. We should focus on getting the
security ministries up to speed. Even well-trained troops need to be
equipped, sustained and directed.
We also need an effective counterinsurgency strategy. The administration
finally understands the need not only to clear territory but also to
hold and build on it. We have never had enough U.S. troops to do that.
Now there is no choice but to gamble on the Iraqis. We can help by
changing the mix of our forces to include more embedded trainers, civil
affairs units and Special Forces.
Iraqis of all sects want to live in a stable country. Iraq's neighbors
don't want a civil war next door. The major powers don't want a
terrorist haven in the heart of the Middle East. The American people
want us to succeed.
If the administration shows it has a blueprint for protecting our
fundamental security interests in Iraq, Americans will support it.
The writer is a senator from Delaware and the ranking Democrat on the
Foreign Relations Committee.
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