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US Should Stop Training Iraqi Security Forces
New Report Warns Against Empowering Army in Absence of Political Reconciliation
06/25/2007 5:05 PM ET

"The current Iraq strategy is exactly what Al Qaeda wants—the United States distracted and pinned down by Iraq’s internal conflicts and trapped in a quagmire that has become the perfect rallying cry and recruitment tool for Al Qaeda," according to a new report released Monday by the Center for American Progress.

The report's authors, Brian Katulis, Lawrence J. Korb, and Peter Juul, warn that, "The fundamental premise of Bush’s surge strategy—that Iraq’s leaders will make key decisions to advance their country’s political transition and national reconciliation—is at best misguided and clearly unworkable. Neither U.S. troops in and around Baghdad nor diplomats in the Green Zone can force Iraqi leaders to hold their country together."

The most radical suggestion of the report concerns a recommendation that the US cease arming and training Iraqi security forces--at least until Maliki's government has reached consensus on outstanding political matters.

The Iraqi security forces have been plagued by the infiltration of militia groups, and implicated in sectarian violence, leading the report to conclude:

Spending billions to arm Iraq’s security forces without political consensus among Iraq’s leaders carries significant risks—the largest of which is arming faction-ridden national Iraqi units before a unified national government exists that these armed forces will loyally support. Training and equipping Iraqi security forces risks making Iraq’s civil war even bloodier and more vicious than it already is today. It also increases the dangers that these weapons will one day be turned against the United States and its allies in the region.

Rather than relying solely on the central government, the US initiative should "build on the efforts of the Bush administration to put more emphasis on provincial and local leadership."

If all goes well, CAP recommends the full redeployment of US forces from Iraq by September 2008, except for a contingent of 8,000 to 10,000 troops that would be based in Kurdistan as a buffer to prevent an outbreak of hostilities on the border with Turkey.

Lawrence Korb and Brian Katulis made a big stir with their September 2005 report Strategic Redeployment, which was the first major think tank study to advocate the withdrawal of US troops. Written off by many critics as the product of a "liberal" institution, many ideas put forth in the study--such as a transition to targeted counterterrorism operations and a renewed emphasis on regional diplomacy--were ultimately accepted as a part of revised US strategy.

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