As the debate over American strategy in Iraq heats up, many opponents of the current counterinsurgency approach are seeking a middle way between the strategy General David Petraeus has designed and is executing and a complete withdrawal from Iraq that they recognize will gravely harm American security and national interests. The search for this middle way goes back to the Iraq Study Group’s report, which suggested that an expanded diplomatic and military training effort could permit a significant reduction in American combat forces in Iraq while still offering the prospect of at least partial success. In June, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) published a report entitled Phased Transition: A Responsible Way Forward and Out of Iraq that is the most detailed effort yet to describe what a middle-way military strategy would look like.
The importance of the debate over American strategy in Iraq, and in particular the importance of thinking through the challenges of moving from an active counterinsurgency strategy to an advisory mission in Iraq, led the Iraq Planning Group at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to conduct a detailed evaluation of the CNAS report and, more generally, the efforts to find a middle-way strategy that relies on expanded training efforts to permit rapid withdrawal of most American combat units from Iraq. . . .
Frederick W. Kagan is a resident scholar at AEI.