Exit strategy from Iraq

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Bush administration's war in Iraq
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"Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces."—Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers, April 20, 2007. [1]

"Anyone who wanted to believe that all Mr. Bush was seeking was a short-term security push — as part of a larger strategy to extricate American troops from this unwinnable war — now needs to face up to a far less palatable reality. What is under way is a significant and long-term escalation. The Army cannot sustain these levels for more than another few months. And as long as Iraq's leaders refuse to make significant political changes, the civil war will continue to spin out of control."—March 10, 2007, New York Times editorial.

Reid Joint Resolution and a Timetable to Exit Iraq

On March 8, 2007, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid joined Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin, Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer, Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray, Senator Russ Feingold, and Senator Evan Bayh to announce the Reid Joint Resolution, a "new Joint Resolution to revise U.S. policy on Iraq." [2][3]

"The Reid Joint Resolution builds on the longstanding Democratic position on Iraq and the Levin-Reed Amendment: the current conflict in Iraq requires a political solution, Iraq must take responsibility for its own future, and our troops should not be policing a civil war. It contains binding language to direct the President to transition the mission for U.S. forces in Iraq and begin their phased redeployment within one-hundred twenty days with a goal of redeploying all combat forces by March 31, 2008. A limited number of troops would remain for the purposes of force protection, training and equipping Iraqi troops, and targeted counter-terror options."
  • See Text of S.J. Res. 9: United States Policy in Iraq Resolution of 2007.

Paul Richter wrote March 9, 2007, in the Los Angeles Times that "Democrats have created a clear-cut choice for the public: 'Follow the president's plan to use U.S. combat troops indefinitely, or shift American soldiers to a secondary role and begin withdrawing them.'" [4]

Bob Geiger wrote March 14, 2007, that the U.S. Senate "today voted 89-9 to move forward with a full debate on S.J. Res. 9, the United States Policy in Iraq Resolution of 2007. ...

"Senate Democrats do not realistically expect enough Republicans to support bringing our troops home from Iraq to help make it past the next vote but Reid is committed to bringing this issue to the floor again and again and forcing Republicans to vote on it until Americans see exactly how little the GOP truly 'supports the troops.'"

Reid Joint Resolution To Revise United States Policy On Iraq: [5]

  • Whereas Clauses
  • We support the troops;
  • The circumstances cited in the 2002 use of force authorization have changed substantially;
  • U.S. troops should not be policing a civil war;
  • U.S. policy in Iraq must change to emphasize the need for a political solution in order to maximize the chances for success and more effectively wage the war on terror.
  • Redeployment of U.S. Forces From Iraq
  • The President shall promptly transition the mission of U.S. forces in Iraq and begin the phased redeployment no later than 120 days following enactment;
  • Goal to redeploy all combat forces from Iraq by March 31, 2008 except for a limited number that are essential for the following purposes:
  • Force protection
  • Training and equipping Iraqi troops
  • Targeted counter-terror operations
  • New Comprehensive Strategy to Ensure Stability in Iraq
  • Redeployment shall be implemented as part of a comprehensive economic, diplomatic, and political strategy that includes sustained engagement with Iraq's neighbors and the international community.
  • New policy seeks to change course, transition the mission, and bring stability to Iraq.

Midterm Elections Over, Now It's Time to Leave

"Now that the votes have been counted, the American people are ready for swift steps to extract U.S. forces from a no-win situation," John Nichols wrote November 27, 2006, in The Nation. The "November 7 vote did not just empower Democrats to do the right thing with regard to the Iraq debacle. It also freed up Republicans — particularly Senate Republicans who have long been ill at ease with the neoconservative nonsense peddled by the Bush administration."

In the November 26, 2006, Washington Post, Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska), who had commenced comparing "the Vietnam War, in which he served, [with] the Iraq imbroglio months ago — at a point when most Senate Democrats were holding their tongues", took "the mightly leap of declaring that it is time to 'form a bipartisan consensus to get out of Iraq.'

"We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam," Hagel wrote in the Post. "Honorable intentions are not policies and plans."

Bush adminstration: no exit strategy or timetable

In spite of the fact that the Bush administration has insisted that there would be no exit strategy or timetable to leave Iraq, David S. Cloud reported in the October 22, 2006, New York Times that senior American officials said that the administration is "drafting a timetable for the Iraqi government to address sectarian divisions and assume a larger role in securing the country."

Previously, the Bush administration has said:

  • "A failed Iraq would make America less secure. A failed Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will provide safe haven for terrorists and extremists. It will embolden those who are trying to thwart the ambitions of reformers. In this case, it would give the terrorists and extremists an additional tool besides safe haven, and that is revenues from oil sales," President George W. Bush said at an August 21, 2006, press conference. "The strategy is to help the Iraqi people achieve their objectives and their dreams, which is a democratic society. That's the strategy. The tactics—now, either you say, yes, its important we stay there and get it done, or we leave. We're not leaving, so long as I'm the President. That would be a huge mistake."
  • "And we're not going to leave before the mission is complete. I agree with General Abizaid: We leave before the mission is done, the terrorists will follow us here," President George W. Bush said at an August 21, 2006, press conference.
  • "We either fight them there, or we fight them in the supermarkets and streets here," Rep. Curt Weldon, (R-PA) said August 23, 2006, on CNN. [6]
  • "There will be no early withdrawal so long as we run the Congress and occupy the White House," President George W. Bush said at the June 19, 2006, President's Dinner, a GOP fundraiser.
  • "It is time to tell an inconvenient truth about Iraq: it is an occupation, not a war. In wars, armies fight to dominate land. The US won the war three years ago when Bush said, 'Mission Accomplished'. Then the occupation started, and our troops were not trained or equipped for an occupation under predictably hostile circumstances. Finally getting the courage to tell the truth that the US is an occupying force drastically changes the picture in Iraq. You cannot 'win' an occupation. 'Cut and run' does not apply to an occupation. Occupiers have to leave; the only question is when and how."—George Lakoff, BuzzFlash, July 5, 2006.

The Just-in-Time for the 2006 Midterm Elections' Drawdown

General George W. Casey, "the leader of U.S. forces in Iraq has submitted an early draft of a plan to withdraw roughly 28,000 combat troops by the end of 2007. But the officials emphasize that the plan is conditional on the security situation on the ground in Iraq," NBC News' Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reported June 24, 2006.

Casey's plan begins in August or September 2006 with a "reduction of combat forces in Iraq by two brigades, or some 7,000 to 10,000 soldiers," which "would reduce the total number of U.S. military forces in Iraq to approximately 117,000 to 120,000 troops. The reduction would be accomplished by cancelling the deployments of two brigades set to rotate into Iraq later this summer.

"The total number of forces that could possibly be withdrawn under U.S. Gen. George W. Casey’s plan would be larger than the 28,000 combat forces because as the number of combat troops is reduced, an undetermined number of support elements could also be withdrawn," Miklaszewski wrote.

"American troop levels in western Iraq, one of the most dangerous parts of the country, are not expected to decline as part of a plan to make sharp reductions in American forces in Iraq by the end of 2007," according to Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, who oversees marines in the Middle East and Central Asia, Eric Schmitt reported in the June 25, 2006, New York Times.

"Cut and Run"

"President Bush's Republican allies in Congress in recent weeks have criticized Democratic proposals for getting out of Iraq, accusing the opposition party of laying plans to 'cut and run' from the war," CNN reported June 26, 2006.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate on June 21, 2006, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) "criticized the 'catchy political slogans' put forth by his Republican colleagues" [8]:

"It should be taken more seriously than to simply retreat into focus-group tested buzz words and phrases like 'cut and run,' catchy political slogans that debase the seriousness of war." [9]

Senator Gordon H. Smith (R-Oregon, "while disagreeing with the Democrats' proposals, similarly complained" [10]:

"'I want to express to my colleagues on the other side that the rhetoric is too heated' on the issue and said, '[M]y soul cries out for something more dignified. ... I don’t believe their dissent is unpatriotic.'" [11][12]

Bush Response: "Maybe they will, maybe they won't"

On June 26, 2006, the White House confirmed that General Casey had "drawn up plans to bring home about 7,000 U.S. troops starting in September [2006] and more than half the U.S. combat strength in Iraq by the end of 2007, ... [totalling] roughly 28,000 out of the 127,000 U.S. troops in Iraq now, ... though the exact troop level envisioned by Casey's plan was unclear, because it also would include an unspecified number of support troops." [13]

Although the "plan would seem like good news for a war-battered president who has long given a stock answer to the question of when U.S. troops can start coming home: It's up to Casey.

"But instead of embracing the idea publicly, Bush insisted it wasn't a formal recommendation at all. Spokesman Tony Snow said it was merely one of several scenarios Casey is considering. 'Maybe they will, maybe they won't' come home, Snow said." [14]

Democratic Response

"Senate Democrats reacted angrily" to the report that Casey "had privately presented a plan for significant troop reductions in the same week they came under attack by Republicans for trying to set a timetable for withdrawal," Michael Abramowitz and Thomas E. Ricks reported in the June 26, 2006, Washington Post.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) said that "the plan attributed to Gen. George W. Casey resembles the thinking of many Democrats who voted for a nonbinding resolution to begin a troop drawdown in December [2006]," which was defeated June 22, 2006, on "largely" a party-line vote in the U.S. Senate. "'That means the only people who have fought us and fought us against the timetable, the only ones still saying there shouldn't be a timetable really are the Republicans in the United States Senate and in the Congress,' Boxer said on CBS's Face the Nation," Abramowitz and Ricks wrote.

Senator Carl M. Levin (D-Michigan), "one of the two sponsors of the nonbinding resolution, which offered no pace or completion date for a withdrawal, said the report is another sign of what he termed one of the 'worst-kept secrets in town'—that the administration intends to pull out troops before the midterm elections in November [2006]," Abramowitz and Ricks wrote. "'It shouldn't be a political decision, but it is going to be with this administration,' Levin said on Fox News Sunday.' 'It's as clear as your face, which is mighty clear, that before this election, this November, there's going to be troop reductions in Iraq, and the president will then claim some kind of progress or victory.'"

Republican Response

Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-Indiana), who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "voiced some skepticism that the administration can reach the conditions set for withdrawing troops," Abramowitz and Ricks wrote June 26, 2006. "'Given current events in Baghdad in particular reported on every day quite apart from Anbar province, the violence is horrific,'" Lugar said June 25, 2006, on Face the Nation."

The day before Casey's plan was revealed, on June 23, 2006, Republican presidential candidates—Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) and Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas)—responded to the Democrats' suggestion of a nonbinding resolution on withdrawal from Iraq. McCain, "calling redeployments now 'a significant step on the road to disaster'", said "'We cannot pull out and hope for the best.'" Brownback "likewise dismissed a timetable: 'We have to see this through to a successful conclusion'."

Perspective: "bait-and-switch"?

"The administration and its allies have been mercilessly bashing Democrats who argued that the U.S. should begin developing a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces. Republicans stood up on the Senate floor last week, one after another, to chant like cultists from the Karl Rove playbook: We're tough. You're not. Cut-and-run. Nyah-nyah-nyah!," Bob Herbert wrote in a June 26, 2006, New York Times Editorial.

"But then on Sunday we learned that the president's own point man in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, had fashioned the very thing that ol' blood-and-guts Frist and his C-Span brigade had ranted against: a withdrawal plan," Herbert wrote. "Are Karl Rove and his liege lord, the bait-and-switch king, trying to have it both ways? You bet. And that ought to be a crime, because there are real lives at stake."

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Stay Until It's Someone Else's Problem

"In terms of domestic politics, this isn't that complicated. President Bush wants to stay in Iraq for at least three more years. Members of his party in Congress agree with him. They don't have a plan. ... Moreover, getting suckered into a debate about deadlines for leaving Iraq is foolish, especially when President Bush has said on the record repeatedly that he plans to keep our troops in Iraq for the remainder of his presidency. He wants them there for at least three more years. What happens after that he'll leave to future presidents. This isn't what Democrats claim. This is what he says. He doesn't say he's willing to keep them there to achieve this or that aim. He's committed to keeping them there.

"He doesn't have a plan for what to do in Iraq so he wants to keep the troops there for the rest of his presidency. That's his plan: stay long enough that it becomes someone else's problem."—Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo, June 20, 2006.

Exit Strategy from Iraq 2005

Criteria for Withdrawal

Iraqi Armed Forces

"Corruption threatens to leave Iraq with a 'ghost army'," according to Patrick Cockburn in the July 17, 2005, Independent/UK:

  • "A tidal wave of corruption may ensure the Iraqi army and police will be too few and too poorly armed to replace American and British forces fighting anti-government insurgents."
  • "The Iraqi armed forces are full of 'ghost battalions' in which officers pocket the pay of soldiers who never existed or have gone home."
  • "The army and police are poorly armed despite heavy expenditure."
  • "The results of the failure to buy effective arms are visible at every Iraqi police or army checkpoint. The weapons on display are often ageing Kalashnikovs. The supposedly elite police commandos drive about in elderly pick-ups with no armour. The ministry of the interior was recently unable to provide a presidential guard with 50 pistols."

Reconstruction of Iraq

"Where has all the money gone? Ed Harriman follows the auditors into Iraq," London Review of Books, July 7, 2005:

"The 'reconstruction' of Iraq is the largest American-led occupation programme since the Marshall Plan. But there is a difference: the US government funded the Marshall Plan whereas Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer have made sure that the reconstruction of Iraq is paid for by the 'liberated' country, by the Iraqis themselves."
"What’s happened to the rebuilding of Iraqi society, and real governance based on transparency and accountability?"
"In the absence of any meaningful accountability, Iraqis have no way of knowing how much of the nation’s wealth is being handed out to ministers’ and civil servants’ friends and families or funnelled into secret overseas bank accounts. Given that many Ba’athists are now back in government, some of that money may even be financing the insurgents.
"Both Saddam and the US profited handsomely during his reign. He controlled Iraq’s wealth while most of Iraq’s oil went to Californian refineries to provide cheap petrol for American voters. US corporations, like those who enjoyed Saddam’s favour, grew rich. Today the system is much the same: the oil goes to California, and the new Iraqi government spends the country’s money with impunity."


"There's not going to be any timetables. I mean, I've told this to the Prime Minister . . . Why would you say to the enemy, you know, here's a timetable, just go ahead and wait us out? It doesn't make any sense to have a timetable. You know, if you give a timetable, you're conceding too much to the enemy." --George W. Bush, White House Press Release, June 24, 2005.

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