In Meeting with Iraq Study Group, Reid/ Durbin Call for New Direction in U.S. Iraq Policy
Washington, DC– In meetings today with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, Senators Reid and Durbin set forth their concerns about current U.S. policy in Iraq and laid out five specific recommendations to change course. Noting that "Iraq has descended into a civil war", the Senators urged the Group to act expeditiously in providing a non-partisan way forward for the sake of U.S. troops, American taxpayers, and U.S. national security interests. The complete briefing memo and attachments submitted by Senators Reid and Durbincan be found here.
Members of the Iraq Study Group are:
James Baker, Co-Chair, Iraq Study Group
Lee Hamilton, Co-Chair, Iraq Study Group
Sandra Day O’Connor
The text of the memo is below.
To: Iraq Study Group
From: Harry Reid and Dick Durbin
Re: Iraq – Finding A Way Forward
Date: August 2, 2006
We are very grateful that you have taken on the important responsibility of helping policymakers find a way forward in Iraq. A free and stable Iraq is a goal that we all share. But we are terribly concerned that the Bush Administration’s current approach is not working, and is not sustainable. As you know, Iraq has exploded in sectarian violence. Close to 2600 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice, while well over 18,000 have been wounded, a third of them grievously. According to the United Nations, nearly 6000 Iraqis died from sectarian warfare in May and June alone. Tens of thousands more have been displaced. In short, we believe Iraq has descended into a civil war, and our troops are stuck in the middle.
We will not belabor the litany of mistakes made by Administration officials in managing the war effort. From the failure to deploy sufficient numbers of troops at the start of the war, to the prison abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, to the failure to plan for the post-war occupation, the mistakes are well known. What we need now, however, is a plan to move forward. That’s why your efforts are so important.
Below, we lay out five recommendations that provide an alternative to the current open-ended approach adopted by the Bush Administration. We think this is the best way to advance U.S. national security interests, stabilize Iraq, and provide relief to U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who have borne the burden of the Iraq effort. These recommendations were set forth in a letter we sent to the President on Sunday, July 30th. They were also embodied in a Senate Amendment offered to the 2007 Defense Authorization bill by Senators Carl Levin and Jack Reed, and in the “United States Policy in Iraq Act,” enacted by the Congress last year. The letter to the President, the Levin/Reed amendment, and the United States Policy in Iraq Act are all attached. We hope you find these suggestions and documents useful, and we look forward to working with you in the months ahead.
- Transition the U.S. mission and begin the responsible redeployment of U.S. forces. We think it is time to transition the U.S. mission to one of counter-terrorism, training, logistics and force protection. We also believe that a phased redeployment of U.S. forces should begin before the end of the year. This redeployment is critical to ensuring that Iraqis begin to take the lead for the security of their nation, and so that U.S. forces can be redeployed, if necessary, to other national security challenges elsewhere in the world. Reducing the U.S. footprint will also allow U.S. forces to begin to address alarming readiness issues in the Army. A redeployment will have the collateral benefit of reducing the specter of occupation, which according to our military commanders, is giving rise to some insurgent activities.
- Reconcile sectarian differences through more robust diplomacy. We have been disappointed that the Administration has not done more to advocate for changes to the Iraqi Constitution that would achieve a fair sharing of power and resources. Nor has the Administration embraced calls for an international peace conference to bring the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds together to forge a lasting political settlement. Our military commanders remind us often that there are only political solutions to the problems in Iraq, not military ones. We hope, therefore, that you will emphasize the need for further constitutional changes and an international peace conference, modeled after the Dayton Accord of 1995 or the Bonn Agreement of 2002, in your group’s final recommendations. We also think it would be useful for the President to appoint a full-time, high-level person of stature to assist the U.S. Ambassador in Iraq with diplomatic efforts within Iraq and within the broader Persian Gulf region.
- Regionalize the U.S. approach to dealing with Iraq. We think it is long past time to get the other nations in the Persian Gulf region involved in assisting Iraq. Instead of allowing destabilizing and deconstructive influences from Iran and Syria to dominate the region’s contributions to Iraq, the Administration, working with the permanent members of the Security Council, should launch a regional security initiative that brings together those nations that want to see Iraq succeed and that can help secure Iraq’s borders, assist with institution building and economic reconstruction, and provide security forces training. Such an initiative could serve as a positive catalyst in addressing a number of broader root insecurity issues that affect key players in the region.
- Revitalize the economic reconstruction effort. Ultimately, the struggle in Iraq, and across the Middle East, is a war to win the hearts and minds of millions of disaffected people and to empower moderate political actors across the region. In Iraq, these were people who were brutalized by a dictator, only to see a botched occupation and rebuilding effort. Every major economic indicator in Iraq is head ed in the wrong direction. There are few State Department or other U.S. government personnel located outside of the Green Zone. The U.S. and its allies can and must do better. We believe the United States ought to be playing a greater leadership role in revitalizing the nation-building effort, engaging the international community, seeing that projects actually get completed, cleaning up the corruption, eliminating the no-bid contracts, ensuring that other nations live up to their commitments, and empowering Iraqis to seize initiative in reconstruction and economic development in Iraq.
- Rebuild the U.S. military. The extended conflict in Iraq has left the military stretched thin and its equipment in disrepair. Considerable investments in manpower and equipment are urgently needed. Readiness levels for the Army are at lows not seen since Vietnam, as not a single non-deployed Army combat brigade is prepared to meet its wartime mission. Some estimates suggest it will require $50 billion just to repair and replace the military equipment used in Iraq. It would be appropriate, therefore, when developing plans for Iraq, to simultaneously address the needs of the U.S. military. The two subjects are inter-related.