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Outside View: U.S. Options In Iraq

The simple option is turn left, and drive off into the sunset.

Washington DC (UPI) Aug 05, 2005
The key issues affecting U.S. strategy in Iraq are not military, but politics, governance, aid and economics. The United States and the Iraqi government have largely "cast the die" in military terms, and the issue is not one of strategy as much as finding ways to ensure that the development of Iraqi forces will actually succeed.

Should the Coalition and Iraqi security forces create safe zones, and put more emphasis on fighting street crime and organized crime, de-emphasizing the hunt for insurgents, so Iraqi economic and political life can take root?

Such an approach ignores the fact that Iraqi forces are already being developed into three major components: military, regular police, and police units. It is true that fact that insurgents and terrorists can attack almost anywhere in Iraq, even when the Coalition and/or Iraqi forces are conducting operations in the border area or in so-called secure areas. Such Coalition and Iraqi military and security efforts simply make it harder for them to do so.

However, this situation would be much worse if major ongoing efforts were not being made to defeat them directly in the areas where they have the most strength and to deny them sanctuaries. Furthermore, reductions in present counterinsurgency operations outside "safe areas" will tend to cede control to the most extreme and violent groups and make it even harder to include Sunnis in such areas in Iraq's political process and economic development.

Should the Coalition attempt to take advantage of divisions within the insurgents -- for example, Sunni nationalists vs. foreign jihadists?

The answer is yes, but only as a secondary and supportive endeavor to the efforts made by the Iraqi government, and with great care to avoid being seen as somehow dictating government actions or still acting as an occupier. This question puts the lead role in the wrong place. The United States should -- and does -- encourage the Iraqi government to be as inclusive as possible and to bring as many Sunnis into the political process as possible; this should not be a U.S.-led or Coalition-led strategy. The Coalition may need to make some tactical accommodations with insurgents, but any major negotiations must be led by the Iraqis.)

Can a political solution be reached with Sunni insurgents, and could this lead to Sunni cooperation in isolating, capturing, or killing the international insurgents?

The basic assumption in this question is wrong. Tying Islamic extremist groups in Iraq to foreigners, and to al-Qaida and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, addresses only one part of the threat and ignores the large part -- perhaps the true nature -- of the threat. The most dangerous "international insurgents" can operate in Iraq because they are part of Islamist extremist groups with large Iraqi membership. The key will be to split the more moderate and pragmatic Iraqi Sunni groups from such extremist groups, and give them an incentive to support government operations against such extremist groups or take action on their own.

Could the United States successfully press its allies to increase aid and provide manpower to protect Iraq's borders and prevent foreign infiltration?

The main goal should be to increase the presence of Iraqi forces in securing the border and in providing security to governance in troubled areas. The Multi-National Corps or MNC-I, Multi-National Security Training Command or MNSTC-I, and Iraqi Ministry of Defense are already working to help Iraq regain control of its borders in the tough spots (primarily the border with Syria) as soon as possible. This will take time and is already in its early stages. But reconstruction of the border forts in those areas, generation of additional border guards, generation of additional Iraqi Army units, and support for the Ports of Entry (where Dept of Homeland Security Border Support Teams are helpful) are all underway.

Border Transition Teams will begin linking up with Iraqi Border Guard units in the weeks ahead as well; they're already in Iraq and completing their final prep. This is a large and complex effort, but it is at least underway and will be very important to reduce the number of foreign suicide bombers and movement of funds/leaders. It will also have major impact on smuggling, which saps some of Iraq's economic power. It will also require additional equipment and technology, such as backscatter X-ray machines (already finding contraband at the Ports of Entry) and the PISCES system (which requires significant database development to be effective in the mid-term).

In contrast, it is unrealistic to think that other Coalition members or nations are going to help in the border areas that are really contested.

Is there a reasonable prospect that allied or friendly governments would agree to increase their military participation for this purpose, which is perceived as less dangerous than patrolling Iraqi hotspots?

The answer is no. It would take very large forces to make even the slightest difference, and foreign countries are no more likely to deploy troops to remote areas than elsewhere. Moreover, small, isolated deployments would rapidly become targets, while staying in large bases would be pointless.

As various Coalition partners end their role in Iraq, some say they will be willing to turn their forces from combat to training. This means that it may be realistic to preserve some contributions that are now planned to decline, but it is unrealistic to assume that any such forces would go to "hot" areas on the border.

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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Outside View: Preparing Iraq's Army
Washington DC (UPI) Aug 05, 2005
A detailed analysis of the current Multi National Force-I and Multi-National Security Training Command-I effort to train and equip Iraqi forces indicates that this effort has been comprehensively reorganized over the course of the last year and that it now includes far better readiness standards and significant allied contributions.

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