Assessing the Surge in Iraq
About This Event

General Raymond Odierno recently announced that the surge of forces into Iraq has been completed and that the expected increase in operations has begun. Since President George W. Bush announced the new strategy in January, we have already seen some positive developments on the ground in Baghdad, but challenges remain, Listen to Audio


Download Audio as MP3
and the ultimate outcome of the struggle has yet to be decided. With the last of the additional troops in place, Washington awaits the assessment to be offered by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker in September. Can the new strategy bring violence under control in the Iraqi capital to give the Iraqi government the time and space it needs to make the difficult political decisions necessary for lasting peace?

At this event, AEI resident scholar Frederick W. Kagan will be joined by former acting Army chief of staff General Jack Keane and defense analyst James Miller to discuss the progress of the surge strategy in Iraq and to comment on what can be expected in the weeks and months ahead. AEI’s Danielle Pletka will moderate.

Agenda
1:45 p.m.
Registration
2:00
Panelists:
Frederick W. Kagan, AEI
General Jack Keane, U.S. Army (retired)
James Miller, Center for a New American Security
Moderator:
Danielle Pletka, AEI
3:30
Adjournment
Event Summary

July 2007

Assessing the Surge in Iraq

General Raymond Odierno recently announced that the surge of forces into Iraq has been completed and that the expected increase in operations has begun. Since President George W. Bush announced the new strategy in January, we have already seen some positive developments on the ground in Baghdad, but challenges remain, and the ultimate outcome of the struggle has yet to be decided. With the last of the additional troops in place, Washington awaits the assessment to be offered by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker in September. Can the new strategy bring violence under control in the Iraqi capital to give the Iraqi government the time and space it needs to make the difficult political decisions necessary for lasting peace?

At this event, AEI resident scholar Frederick W. Kagan was joined by former acting Army chief of staff General Jack Keane and defense analyst James Miller to discuss the progress of the surge strategy in Iraq and to comment on what can be expected in the weeks and months ahead. AEI's Danielle Pletka moderated.

General Jack Keane
U.S. Army (retired)

The situation in Iraq as of June 2007 is far better than it was in 2006. There have been vast improvements in neighborhoods in Baghdad and the Baghdad Belts witnessed firsthand between visits February and May. The biggest improvement is that al Qaeda no longer has a stronghold in Anbar province. It is also being driven out of Diyala. Because of al Qaeda's fanatical religion program, Sunni tribes who previously swore allegiance to the terrorist network have turned against it. The Sunni defection has been assisted by our new concerted efforts to protect the population.

With this change of strategy, as U.S. troops are brought into greater contact with the population and new areas are secured, there are bound to be more casualties. To the military commanders, this is a counteroffensive--not a "surge"--which, like any other counteroffensive, carries increased risks. If anyone can handle such risks, it is our soldiers, who, despite the unpopularity of the war back home, have not batted an eyelid in implementing the new strategy.

James Miller
Center for a New American Security

The surge has not yet attained its two main goals: violence is not being reduced, because al Qaeda is picking up the pace with its killings; and political reconciliation is not taking place. It will take many years to resolve the political question. A better plan is a phased withdrawal: reducing 160,000 troops to 60,000 by early 2009 and increasing our advisers from 6,000 to 20,000 concurrently.

The justifications that proponents of the surge provide in its defense do not hold. First, Sunni leaders in Anbar had started reconsidering their alliance with al Qaeda before the surge took place. Second, attacks in Kurdistan suggest that the insurgency problem is not only in and around Baghdad but that, in fact, a smart enemy has relocated. Third, we have given no attention to developing the advisory capacity necessary for the functioning of the fledgling Iraqi Security Forces: the surge has only taken away from training the Iraqis. Fourth, the diplomatic aspect as laid out in the Iraq Study Group report has been entirely ignored. Fifth, with a number of Republican senators changing their minds about the surge, eroding support for the Iraq war at home will continue to present a problem.

Frederick W. Kagan
AEI

Let me address some of the concerns raised. First of all, al Qaeda in Iraq is confined to Baghdad and the outlying provinces, which are notably Sunni. Al Qaeda cannot survive in the Shiite south or the Kurdish north. The Baghdad Security Plan has reinforced most of these areas except for Nineveh province, and it is telling that the situation there has not deteriorated. Al Qaeda only has so much breathing space. Second, while the surge did not cause the shift in Anbar, it surely assisted it. This reflects the positive role Americans can play in bridging the Sunni-Shia gap between Anbar and the government in Baghdad. This bridge will be lost if American troops have to pull out. Third, there actually has been some political progress: there is the potential formation of a coalition of Maliki's Dawa Party and Hakim's Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq against Moqtada al-Sadr. This will certainly allow Maliki to form a majority without the Sadrists, giving him a freer rein.

But either way, the notion that the American government can instruct its sovereign Iraqi counterpart to meet political benchmarks reeks of neo-imperialism. Security is a basic prerequisite for any political progress; in the former's absence, there can be little of the latter. We should give the Iraqis time and freedom to deliver good legislation: a good bill resolved slowly is better than a bad bill resolved quickly.

The current strategy has not failed. It has only begun: the last elements of the surge have only just arrived. Any military or political operation can fail, but this one has not as yet.

AEI intern Abheek Bhattacharya prepared this summary.

View complete summary.
Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine

What's new on AEI

Poverty in America—and What to Do About It
image GDP for second quarter: Strong headline, weak innards
image Paul Ryan and the emerging conservative reform agenda in higher education
image Democrats' impeachment fixation
AEI Participants

 

Danielle
Pletka
AEI on Facebook