Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq
About This Event

The president is gearing up for a major change of strategy in Iraq. Now that the Iraq Study Group has reported its findings, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Peter Pace will provide his recommendations, and President George W. Bush will address the nation next week. Democratic leaders advocate withdrawal, Listen to Audio


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the Iraq Study Group recommends withdrawal within fifteen months, and the military has yet to speak out. But which course will the president take?

At this crucial turning point, AEI will present its own report, “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success.” The study calls for a sustained surge of U.S. forces to secure and protect critical areas of Baghdad. AEI resident scholar Frederick W. Kagan directed the report in consultation with military and regional experts, including former acting Army chief of staff General Jack Keane, former Afghanistan coalition commander Lieutenant General David Barno, and other officers involved with the successful operations of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment in Tal Afar.

At this event, Mr. Kagan and General Keane will present the report, which outlines how the United States can win in Iraq, and reinforces the idea that victory is the only acceptable outcome. Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution will comment.

Agenda
8:45 a.m.
Registration
9:00
Discussants:
Frederick W. Kagan, AEI
General Jack Keane, U.S. Army (retired)
Kenneth M. Pollack, Brookings Institution
10:30
Adjournment
Event Summary

December 2006

Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq

The president is gearing up for a major change of strategy in Iraq. Now that the Iraq Study Group has reported its findings, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Peter Pace will provide his recommendations, and President George W. Bush will address the nation next week. Democratic leaders advocate withdrawal, the Iraq Study Group recommends withdrawal within fifteen months, and the military has yet to speak out. But which course will the president take?

At this crucial turning point, AEI will present its own report, Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq. The study calls for a sustained surge of U.S. forces to secure and protect critical areas of Baghdad. AEI resident scholar Frederick W. Kagan directed the report in consultation with military and regional experts, including former acting Army chief of staff General Jack Keane, former Afghanistan coalition commander Lieutenant General David Barno, and other officers involved with the successful operations of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment in Tal Afar.

On December 14, 2006, Kagan and Keane presented the report, which outlines how the United States can win in Iraq, and reinforces the idea that victory is the only acceptable outcome. Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution also commented.

Frederick W. Kagan
AEI

Iraq is the single most important foreign policy challenge of this moment and perhaps of the age, and the consequences of defeat are catastrophic and unacceptable. The threat of terrorism is only one factor; regional war and instability are also likely. This makes the prospect of defeat terrifying. In order to avoid defeat in Iraq, AEI’s Iraq Planning Group attempted to deal with the problem by moving outside the current military construct and focusing not just on troop strength but also on strategy. It is clear that current attempts to turn security over to the Iraqis and find political solutions to the violence are failing. A more tenable mission is to use American military resources to establish security and protect the population.

From a military perspective, a careful examination of the facts suggests that this sort of strategy is entirely plausible. Because the center of gravity of the Iraq conflict is a few mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, the salient requirement is the number of troops needed to secure those neighborhoods. The goal in targeting these neighborhoods is to ferret out the Sunni insurgency and provide security. This is much more feasible than targeting Sadr City, which risks uniting the currently divided and unwilling-to-fight Shiite militias.

Troop strength must be increased. There are currently five brigades operating in Baghdad. These brigades are stationed at forward operating bases (FOBs) outside of Baghdad. An additional four brigades will need to be surged--an increase of about 20,000 troops. Unlike previous plans, the goal of the exercise will be a clear-and-hold operation in which troops are actually stationed within the cleared neighborhoods. Two more Marine regimental combat teams will be surged into Anbar province in supporting operations. In order to generate and sustain this surge, some brigades will have their deployment accelerated from the early summer to the spring, while current tours will be extended.

A two-tier reconstruction package is planned. During the first phase, local leaders will be consulted to identify needs and provide necessary goods and services. Second-tier reconstruction will involve positive incentives to motivate the local populations; further services will be offered as cooperation increases. Because the cooperation of the Iraqi people is necessary in order to identify and root out insurgents, reconstruction is vital to security.

Finally, in order to create a better-trained and better-prepared Iraqi Security Force (ISF), Iraqi soldiers will be partnered with U.S. battalions during combat. By lowering the level of violence and improving the preparedness of the ISF, it should be possible to secure Baghdad (with the exception of Sadr City) by the end of the 2007.

General Jack Keane
U.S. Army (retired)

Iraq is in a crisis situation. In 2004, the United States moved from focusing on defeating the Sunni insurgency to transfering responsibilities to the ISF. Violence has increased every year since. During this period, Baghdad was chosen by the Sunni insurgents as the focal point of the conflict. Their goal was to fracture the government and incite the Shiite population. So far, they have met with success. To solve this problem, a political solution must be created through military persuasion.

Contrary to the opinion of some, this plan will not break the Army or the Marine Corps. However, the military must be allowed to grow in size. Access to both the National Guard and the Reserves is necessary. Lack of equipment must also be addressed. We cannot be afraid to use the military to defend the national interest, even in hard and painful situations.

Kenneth Pollack
Brooking Institution

In studying recent civil wars, it has become clear that letting Iraq escalate into a full-scale civil war is extremely dangerous. One major cause for concern is that civil wars are likely to balloon into regional wars. The large number of refugees caused by a civil war will provide fertile recruiting grounds for terrorists, militias, and insurgent groups. If a civil war breaks out, neighboring countries will likely use proxies within Iraq to advance their own interests. If these proxies fail, the risk of conventional invasion is high. Secession is also a problem. While it is not certain that these things will happen if Iraq falls into civil war, the signs are already there. Containment may be an option, but it is an ugly one. Thus, a strategy that offers the chance for victory is preferable.

AEI intern Adrian Myers prepared this summary.

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