June 12, 2006
Iraq – Back to Basics
Today, President Bush will begin a "two-day strategy session" that "is intended to revive highly tangible efforts to shore up Iraq's new government, from getting the electricity back on in Baghdad to purging the security forces of revenge-seeking militias." One administration official called the session the "last, best chance to get this right." The Bush administration is holding this session about three years, hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives lost later than Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others thought it would. Those who planned the war thought it would be a cakewalk and most of our troops would have been home in 2003. The mistakes on the part of the Bush administration have made it harder than it should have been — on our troops and taxpayers especially. Yet as they have been doing for three years now, the administration will not "reinvent" their strategy to secure and reconstruct Iraq, "but rather relaunch it." There are a myriad of problems facing Iraq that require serious thought and solutions, not another public relations pitch.
- The administration needs to come to a decision on troop reductions. The President will no doubt use this strategy session to figure out exactly where the administration stands on troop reductions. President Bush on Friday said that after the strategy session, he would be "able to give the American people a better feel for what 'stand up/stand down' means." Meanwhile, military officials have "quietly backed away from their own internal goal to reduce United States forces in Iraq to about 100,000 by the end of the year.” The Iraqis, on the other hand, have issued specific targets, with Iraqi national security advisory projecting that "the number of the multinational forces will be probably less than 100,000," and the "overwhelming majority of the multinational forces will leave, probably before the before the middle of 2008." (American Progress's plan, “Strategic Redeployment 2.0” (PDF), calls for the gradual reduction of forces at a rate of 9,000 per month to 60,000 by the end of 2006, and to virtually zero by the end of 2007.)
- This strategy session should be used to come up with real plan to deal with the militias in Iraq. An important problem facing the future stability of Iraq is the growing influence of militias. The death of Zarqawi, while welcome news, will likely do nothing to stem the attacks caused by “Sunni insurgents and by the growing Shiite and Sunni sectarian groups battling each other" (PDF). Figures from earlier this year suggested that "Shi'ite militias, loyal to powerful Shi'ite politicians, are poised to become as great a threat to Iraq's security" as Sunni insurgents. And as former commander of U.S. Central Command General Zinni said in April, “no one seems to have a plan for the militias."
- The Iraqi infrastructure is in need of serious repair. Since the war, the Iraqi people have been dealing with a lack of basic infrastructure — water, roads and electricity. "Three years of efforts to accomplish those goals have largely failed. Billions of dollars have been spent on both electricity and security, yet residents of Baghdad get only five to eight hours of power a day." Despite administration predictions that Iraq’s electricity production would hit 6,000 megawatts by July 2004, production was still below pre-war levels (PDF) in May. And yet the administration has not learned from its failures, and will simply "relaunch" its reconstruction plans.
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