"I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth." (Karl Popper)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

ICG on US presence in Iraq

“Sunnis and Shiites are not yet in an all-out fight”, asserted an Iraqi journalist, “because the Americans are still there. A huge part of the insurgency is fuelled by the American presence. If the Americans leave, or announce a timetable for their withdrawal, the insurgents will start an all-out fight with the Shiites. And the Shiites will know they no longer have the Americans to protect them”. Left without their protectors, the Shiite parties will have no choice but to face the insurgents directly – with the aim to crush them. “We will take care of the problem” once U.S. forces leave, a member of the Sadr movement predicted confidently. A prolonged presence, of course, is not cost-free, as it mobilises anti-American sentiment and support for the insurgency. Indeed, some Iraqis argue that the Bush administration is using the threat of civil war as an excuse to maintain its troops. Having found no weapons of mass destruction and unable to prove a link between the Baathist regime and al-Qaeda, “what alternative argument do the Americans have for not leaving?”, asked Wamidh Nadhmi. “This is why they are using the pretext of civil war to stay”. Nonetheless, there is every reason to fear that a precipitous U.S. withdrawal, or a withdrawal before establishment of an inclusive government and creation of a largely self-sustaining, non-sectarian military and police force, likely would unleash a full scale civil war. In the end, the question of a troop drawdown is likely to be determined by domestic U.S. concerns. But any assessment of the consequences that can reasonably be expected from such a move should take into account the risk of an all-out civil war.
(International Crisis Group, The Next Iraqi War? Sectarianism and Civil Conflict Middle East Report N°52 27 February 2006)

What conclusion should one take from this picture? Mine is that there should no drawdown/withdrawal of US troops whatever. Perhaps they should be removed from frontline duties, to be replaced by the new government forces. But there is plenty still to be done, not least in the area of training. Standing firm is the only viable option in the near term, arguments about the merits of the war notwithstanding.


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