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Finding The Exit In Iraq

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Washington DC (UPI) Aug 02, 2005
Despite repeated statements that progress is being made in Iraq, the fact is, it really ain't. Indications seem to point that the Bush administration is now starting to look into ways of ending the Iraq campaign and to bring U.S. troops home sooner rather than later.

Some officials tell us things are getting better, others say it's not, insisting Iraq is getting murkier. The insurgency is growing bolder, attacks are increasing, and civil war between the Shiites and Sunnis has started, except it is not being called that.

Logic, therefore, dictates for the United States to speed up the training of Iraqi security forces and have them assume a greater role in securing the country, protecting its borders and in taking the lead in fighting the insurgency. The United States would like to see this plan unfold by early 2006. This would allow the U.S. military to start phasing down operations, and begin bringing the troops home. That plan seems to be the only rational way for the United States to extricate itself from the Iraqi imbroglio.

But before any U.S. or coalition troops can start leaving the country, the Iraqi military, police and intelligence services must demonstrate they are up to the task. As must the Iraqi government. This is most likely why Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld flew to Baghdad last week to inform the Iraqi leadership that though he had publicly stated - as did President Bush - that U.S. forces would remain in Iraq "as long as it takes to get the job done," there was, nevertheless, a time limit to "as long as it takes," and to U.S. patience.

If the United States is eager to leave Iraq, the Iraqis, on their part, are just as eager to see the United States leave. Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari told Rumsfeld, who was on an unannounced visit to Baghdad, that he would like to see a quick pullout of U.S. forces. Rumsfeld, in turn, said the Iraqis should meet their constitution deadline, urging them to finish the draft before Aug. 15.

"We don't want any delays. ... Now's the time to get on with it," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld stopped in Baghdad at the end of a tour of several former Soviet republics in Central Asia where he concluded many deals securing military bases for the United States. However, only days after Rumsfeld's tour, Uzbekistan gave the United States 180 days to cease all operations at the Karshi-Khanabad air base, also known as K2.

The K2 base serves as a staging point for combat missions as well as for humanitarian relief operations in Afghanistan. Its loss will hinder U.S. military operations in the area.

The request by Iraq's prime minister for a U.S. troop withdrawal "to begin soon," gives the United States justification to begin a planned pullout from Iraq. Arriving in Baghdad unannounced due to security reasons, Rumsfeld conferred with Iraqi leaders regarding a possible timetable for Iraqi troops to take over responsibility for security matters in the country.

The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, said he believes U.S. troops could begin redeploying from Iraq as early as next spring. However, the pullout of U.S. troops could only come about on condition that "progress continued on the political front," and based on the assumption that the insurgency would not grow.

Rumsfeld's visit and the request from the Iraqi prime minister comes only weeks after reports of a secret British government memo was leaked to the media stating British and U.S. troops would commence a major pullback from Iraq.

But progress on the political front in Iraq has not been smooth, and judging from what has been unfolding, there are no guarantees the situation will change for the better any time soon.

The writing of the Iraqi constitution "has proceeded in fits and starts," reported the BBC in a dispatch from Baghdad. The report noted, however, one positive development, that Sunni committee members have ended their boycott of the political process. They had earlier announced their withdrawal after three Sunni politicians were killed July 19.

Humam Hamoudi, chairman of the committee writing the constitution, said the Aug. 15 deadline would be met.

A major concern for the United States now - particularly after an eventual pullout - will be to keep Iran and Syria out of Iraqi affairs. Rumsfeld urged Iraqi leaders to resist interference by their two neighbors. The United States accuses both Syria and Iran of supporting terrorism. Syria has been faulted with allowing insurgents through its borders into Iraq.

"It's important for them (the Iraqis) to work with their neighbors to see that the behavior of particularly Iran and Syria improves." Rumsfeld calls current relations between Iraq and its neighbors "harmful."

"They need to be aggressively communicating with their neighbors to see that foreign terrorists stop trying to cross those borders and their neighbors do not harbor insurgents," he said.

A premature pullout of coalition troops from Iraq poses two potential dangers. First, it could give a morale boost to the insurgency, which could prove to be more than the Iraqi military can handle. If that were to occur, Iraq would become the replacement of what Afghanistan was under the Taliban - a haven for radical Islamists.

The second danger is that once the United States is out of Iraq, the insurgency could decide to take its battle elsewhere, such as in next door Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or any of the oil-rich emirates. All the more reasons for ensuring a smooth and effective transition of power in Iraq takes place, and not just a cosmetic hand over to allow the troops home.

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US Probes Insurgency Funding
Washington DC (UPI) Aug 02, 2005
With the Iraq insurgency showing no signs of weakening, a joint meeting of the House Armed Services Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, and the House Financial Services Oversight and Investigations subcommittee was called to find out who was funding them on last Thursday.

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