Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Effectiveness of Iraq strategy and next steps debated

In a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today, two witnesses debated with committee members about the effectiveness of the U.S. administration’s new Iraq strategy and the next steps that should be taken.

The Honorable Richard C. Holbrooke, Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, opened his statement by comparing the current war in Iraq to the war in Viet Nam. Except in terms of the numbers of casualties, Holbrooke said, the situation in Iraq is far worse than Viet Nam. The critical difference between the two situations, he later stated, is that Americans do not want the extremists to succeed in Iraq, whereas protestors marched with Vietnamese flags to oppose the Viet Nam war.

Ambassador Holbrooke appeared somewhat uncertain about his stance on the U.S. administration’s newest proposal for Iraq to increase U.S. troops by 21,000. The increase, Holbrooke claimed, is “not enough to turn the tide, yet significantly deepens our presence in the war.” He later stated, “The nation has put all its eggs in [General] Petraeus’ basket; he must succeed.” However, the Ambassador believes that General Petraeus will not be able to succeed.

The question then, according to Ambassador Holbrooke, becomes one of how and when U.S. troops should redeploy out of Iraq, rather than whether they should. Redeployment, he claimed, will take at least a year with some troops staying behind to support U.S. national interest. Defining national interest was one point that the Ambassador repeatedly emphasized. When asked by Congressman Delahunt, of Massachusetts, to define national interests, Ambassador Holbrooke listed: Al Qaeda, stability in Iraq, Turkey, Israel, Iran, Syria, oil, Afghanistan, and America’s image in the world.

In the meantime, Ambassador Holbrooke noted that the recently announced Iraqi government conference, to which Iran and Syria have both been invited, is an important step forward. In addition to being a clear response to the recommendations and pressures of the U.S., he believes that Iraq’s neighbors must provide support in order to establish stability in the country.

Juxtaposed to Ambassador Holbrooke’s uncertainty, Dr. Frederick W. Kagan, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, strongly believes that with the troop surge, the U.S. military can succeed. When questioned by Congressman Ackerman, of New York, about why 20,000 additional troops would make a difference if they would be carrying out the same tasks as the 130,000 presently in Iraq, Dr. Kagan rebutted by saying that the new proposal is a fundamental change in strategy; one that is seeing positive trendlines. The 130,000, he continued, had a different mission than what the additional 20,000 are called to do. For that reason, he believes the new strategy will work, since significant progress has been noted, though not much time has lapsed since the start of the surge. We are “far from time to give up on this effort,” said Dr. Kagan, who also emphasized that setting a timeline is problematic.

Additionally, according to Dr. Kagan, the war in Iraq is important to the global war on terror. “Six thousand Al Qaeda terrorists are present in the Al Anbar province,” he said – also explaining that Al Qaeda’s presence extends throughout the belt surrounding Baghdad. Dr. Kagan further explained that Al Qaeda activities are closely tied with sectarian violence, which sometimes leads to sectarian cleansing and is used by Al Qaeda to mobilize the community to continue down such a path.

After two hours, Congress likely had more new questions to pose for additional hearings than answers to the questions at hand.


Post a Comment

<< Home