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Archive: October 2007
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CSIS Report Assesses Range of Regional Cooperation Needing Modernization
10/30/2007 6:11 PM ET
The US is going to have to rebuild and modernize much of the structure of its security cooperation in the Middle East over the coming years, according to a new report on regional security cooperation by CSIS's Anthony Cordesman.

Cordesman determines that the US must adjust this cooperation to deal with events in Iraq, and to deter, contain, and defend against Iran, while also reassuring Southern Gulf allies that it seeks common security, rather than risk taking or regime change.

US actions must work to rebuild confidence in American restraint, reassure allies that they have a reliable partner in the US, and develop improvements in regional security rather than sparking instability.

Download the full report 071029_final.mil_coop_in_me.pdf or read CSIS's highlights below.

The Military Dimension

The analysis argues that US and its friends and allies in the region must respond to a complex mix of major changes in the strategic environment in the MENA area. Each bullet or topic in these pages could be the subject of a lengthy analysis, but several factors have special importance:

* The emergence of ideological threats and non-state actors now affect virtually every state. * There is a clear need to look beyond conventional war fighting and include counter-terrorism, counterinsurgency, counter-WMD, and defense against asymmetric warfare in every aspect of security cooperation. * The US and its regional allies must look beyond the narrow definition of Joint warfare as cooperation and joint operations betweens armies, air forces, and navies, and include internal security, police, and intelligence operations in jointness. * The US must explain every aspect of security cooperation through an active public diplomacy effort and demonstrate its value to the countries and peoples concerned.

"Success" by past standards is failure in meeting present and future needs. There are major ongoing changes in the strategic environment, and the US can only succeed if it works with regional friends and allies to deal with asymmetric warfare, non-state actors, proliferation, terrorism, and the threat of Islamist extremism.

Differences in Need and Resource by Sub-Region and Nation

The US also, however, has to consider the resources its allies can bring to bear relative to the threat, and the fact that security cooperation in the Middle East involves three different groups of states and sets of issues. One key to success in security cooperation is to recognize that no two states in the region have the same perception of their interest, the threat, or how to deal with security cooperation with the US. It is to accept the fact that they see their region in a very different way from the US. At the same time, the US and regional states in North Africa, the Levant, and the Gulf do have broadly different sets of needs by subregion.

* In North Africa, the US focus should be on security cooperation in achieving regional stability and in counterterrorism. * In the Levant, the US must largely compartment security cooperation with Israel and cooperation with friendly Arab states like Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, but can improve security cooperation with all these states. * In the Gulf, the US must deal with the strategic importance of a region whose petroleum and growing gas exports fuel key elements of the global economy.

Cooperation and Force Modernization

Effective security cooperation requires major changes in the ways most friendly and allied military states carry out their force planning and military modernization, as well as in the ways the US structures its forces, advisory efforts, and arms sales. These changes affect the priorities for conventional forces, dealing with asymmetric threats, counter proliferation, and counterterrorism:

* Every regional state has the need to improve its counterterrorism capabilities and to prepare for the risk of some form of counterinsurgency. * Improved capability and interoperability is needed in situational awareness and the capability for net centric warfare in a broad range of areas and missions. * Changes are needed in land warfare capabilities that focus on counterterrorism and asymmetric warfare, and link the army to cooperative missions with the security services and police. These include a new emphasis on urban warfare in friendly and politically sensitive areas, and the ability to provide lasting civil security once enemies are defeated at the tactical level. * Matching changes are needed in air capabilities. * New priorities are also needed for naval warfare capabilities. * Special and elite forces are emerging as key assets for counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and asymmetric warfare.

The Challenge of CBRN Warfare and Missile Defense

CBRN warfare and missile defense represent perhaps the most technically complex and costly aspect of the need for security cooperation in the MENA area. Two key challenges drive this requirement. One is the possibility of Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons and a nuclear-armed long-range missile force. Another is the possible acquisition of CBRN weapons by non-state actors and extremist movements.

This potential threat, and the requirements for security cooperation, vary sharply by subregion and friendly or allied state. There are many ways the US and its allies can meet the CBRN/missile challenge. It is clear that these range from active to passive defense, and the possibility of the US expanding security cooperation to include extended deterrence – the kind of security assistance it had to provide its NATO allies during the Cold War.

Dealing with the threat of CBRN terrorism – and its possible use as weapons of intimidation or in covert attacks and proxy warfare – creates additional needs for security cooperation. These needs include efforts to prevent proliferation and to respond to attacks, not just efforts to counter terrorists during the attack phase.

Security cooperation also needs to give new emphasis to civil and passive defense, including critical infrastructure and facilities. These options expand the concept of "jointness" to include both the design and modification of key civil facilities and cooperation with emergency responders.

The Challenge of Counterterrorism

Counterterrorism presents some of the greatest challenges in security cooperation. It involves some of the most sensitive issues in state-to-state relations, and can only be effective where there is mutual trust:

* Real world cooperation must be built on an understanding and acceptance of how difficult it is to go from words and slogans to effective cooperation. * There will never be full cooperation in defining and prioritizing threats and in defining terrorism. * There national divisions create requirements that must be taken into account in going beyond political symbolism and exhortative efforts at cooperation. * There are, however, many different ways in which meaningful cooperation can take place. * Cooperation can take place even in sensitive areas like intelligence.

Building Real Partnership

Both the US, and its regional friends and allies, need to change many of their past approaches to security cooperation if they are to develop more effective forces and mission capabilities.

* The US has sometimes failed to act upon proven ground rules for effective security cooperation, but there is no mystery as to what those rules are. * Arms sales should be a way to enhance security cooperation, not simply way to earn export income or reduce equipment costs to US forces. * US weapons, military technology, netcentric systems, and tactics need to become more “alliedcentric.” * There is a range of areas where the US needs to work with regional friends and allies to develop mission focused modular cooperation. * Partnership also requires political, education, and cultural cooperation. * The US and its regional friends and allies need to learn from Iraq and Afghanistan, and improve cooperation in armed nation building.

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Iraqis Use Spreadsheets, Despite US-Financed Computerized Financial Accouting
10/25/2007 10:26 AM ET
The $38 million the US has invested to upgrade the Iraqi government's accounting to a computerized system has not produced a satisfying return.

The system has been so roundly ignored by the Iraqi Ministry of Finance that "nobody noticed" when it didn't work for a month and no one uses it to produce reports, according to the latest report from Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

The United States had hoped to streamline the corrupt bureaucracy, but SIGIR said the system chosen showed a lack of understanding of Iraq's existing financial and business practices. For instance, the Iraqis refuse to stop using their paper spreadsheets. And thus, the new system has had little impact on Iraq's financial system.

But it's not just the Ministry of Finance. The latest SIGIR report damns almost every ministry, saying about half of all government employees don't show up on any given day, and those that do work only two or three hours ("for security reasons.")

SIGIR assessed the system based on five IMF recommended pre-conditions, and pinpointed problems with each one.

Read SIGIR's full interim review of the Iraqi government's new financial accounting system.


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Financial Records in "Disarray" Makes Full Audit Impossible
10/23/2007 4:51 PM ET
FALLUJAH, Iraq: An International Police Liaison Officer (IPLO) hired by US security company DYNCORP to help build the Iraqi police force walks among the rubble of a police station in the city of Fallujah, October 2005.
Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty
FALLUJAH, Iraq: An International Police Liaison Officer (IPLO) hired by US security company DYNCORP to help build the Iraqi police force walks among the rubble of a police station in the city of Fallujah, October 2005.

The State Department "does not know specifically what it received for most of the $1.2 billion in expenditures under its DynCorp contract," Stuart Bowen, State Department's Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction writes in an audit report released Tuesday.

DynCorp was awarded a massive, multi-year contract to provide training to the Iraq police force in early 2004, and SIGIR reports it has had little oversight since the program's inception.

The contract was to be managed by the Department's Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement, which undertook the endeavor without expanding its staff, leaving only one program officer tasked with oversight of DynCorp's work.

SIGIR was unable to complete a full audit because the companies' records are inaccurate or missing, "They were in such disarray that it prevented us from reaching any meaningful conclusions," Stuart Bowen said Monday.

IraqSlogger's David Phinney reported back in March on one of DynCorp's major subcontractors' practice of further sub-contracting its responsibilities to other companies, though reaping massive profit for the simple act of "flipping" the contract.

With the total value of DynCorp's contract now exceeding $1.3 billion, waste likely seeped out in many directions, but a portion of it looks to have ended up in the bank accounts of The Sandi Group.

Read SIGIR's interim review of DynCorp spending on the Iraqi police program: 07_016.pdf

read them here
MRAPs Consume Biggest Chunk of $46 Billion Proposal
10/23/2007 10:29 AM ET
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 22: U.S. President George W. Bush makes a statement on the Iraq War supplemental in the Roosevelt Room of the White House October 22, 2007 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong/AFP/Getty
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 22: U.S. President George W. Bush makes a statement on the Iraq War supplemental in the Roosevelt Room of the White House October 22, 2007 in Washington, DC.

The President submitted his $46 billion supplemental spending request for war funding to Congress yesterday, bringing the total for 2008 up to $196.4 billion.

Here's a rundown of the line items on the proposed funding measure:

* $11 billion to procure, deliver, and maintain more than 7,200 mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles.

* $3.1 billion to enhance efforts to protect U.S. forces from snipers and improvised explosive devices (IED).

* $8.1 billion for ongoing military and intelligence requirements in the Global War on Terror, including costs related to the increase in troop levels in Iraq and the announced plan for a staged withdrawal of five Brigade Combat Teams by July 2008.

* $1 billion to expand the Iraqi security forces and improve their ability to conduct independent counterinsurgency operations.

* $1 billion to increase the number of trained Army National Guard and Reserve units.

* $242 million for the Commander's Emergency Response Program in Afghanistan, which allows commanders to address urgent needs of local communities. * $762 million for increased fuel costs.

* $1 billion for military construction projects in theater, including airfield improvements, roads, hardening of buildings, and other mission critical facilities.

* $5.4 billion to fill Army equipment shortfalls and to enhance training of next-to-deploy units.

* $8.8 billion to refurbish or replace worn-out or damaged equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan.

* $504 million for a sustainable medical and rehabilitation system to care for wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

* $416 million to accelerate the transition from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the National Military Medical Center, Bethesda and the new Ft. Belvoir Army Community Hospital.

* $840 million to enhance support for servicemembers and their families affected by repeated and continued deployments.

* $561 million to address the additional extraordinary security and operating costs associated with supporting U.S. diplomatic and reconstruction activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

* $25 million to initiate a new enterprise fund that will help Iraqi-owned firms access the capital that they need, and $100 million to re-start state-owned enterprises in Iraq to create jobs.

* $50 million for roads, $115 million for emergency power projects in Kabul and surrounding areas, and $5 million to help the Afghan government implement Reconstruction Opportunity Zones to encourage export growth in support of economic development.

* $100 million to support national elections in 2009, and $225 million to help build the governance capacity of the Afghans to extend the reach of the central government into the provinces and improve governance at the local level.

* $160 million to provide basic health services and education for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon; and $80 million to provide emergency relief supplies, health care, and water and sanitation infrastructure to people displaced in Iraq.

* $375 million for the West Bank to help the Palestinian Authority resolve its fiscal crisis and enhance Palestinian security capabilities.

* $60 million to help the government of Pakistan improve economic and social conditions in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

* $724 million to support the new UN peacekeeping mission to improve security, support the peace process, and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Darfur.

* $70 million to support elections in Sudan in 2009, an important element to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and South.

* $106 million to provide Heavy Fuel Oil or an equivalent value of other assistance to North Korea on an "action-for-action" basis in support of the Six Party Talks in return for actions taken by North Korea on denuclearization.

* $500 million for Mexico and $50 million for Central American countries to help combat transnational crime and drug trafficking.

* $350 million for emergency food aid needs mainly in Africa and $35 million to assist Palestinian refugees.

Full Text
IRS Ruled "Independent Contractor" Relationship Inappropriately Defined
10/22/2007 5:01 PM ET
Chaiman Henry Waxman
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty
Chaiman Henry Waxman

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, accused Blackwater of "significant" tax evasion on Monday. The charges stem from the company's reliance on the "independent contractor" relationship to categorize all armed guards working on their contracts.

Waxman pointed out that DynCorp and Triple Canopy make their armed guards working on State Department contracts in Iraq full-fledged employees, which means they're required to pay federal income tax withholdings. Blackwater, by only hiring guards on an independent contractor basis, have not paid Social Security, Medicare, or unemployment taxes.

The issue came to light as the result of a Blackwater independent contractors' inquiry to the IRS, in which the government agency ruled that the company had improperly classified the individual as a contractor, when in fact the working relationship was one of employer-employee.

Waxman implies that Erik Prince gave misleading testimony to the committee during its hearing on Blackwater three weeks ago when he said that he employed his security force as independent contractors because "it is a model that works" and because BW guards prefer the "flexibility." Prince made those statements despite the IRS ruling, which had been concluded in March 2007.

The IRS had advised Blackwater: "You are responsible for satisfying the employment tax reporting, filing, and payment obligations that result from this determination."

Blackwater and the individual who had raised the complaint with the IRS reached a negotiated settlement on the matter, which included a non-disclosure agreement that has the oversight committee chairmen questioning Blackwater's intentions.

Waxman writes that the terms of the agreement specifically forbade the guard from disclosing any information to "any politician" or "public official," making it appear appears that Blackwater "used this illegal scheme to avoid millions of dollars in taxes and then prevented the security guard who discovered the tax evasion from contacting members of Congress or law enforcement officials."

The assessment only concerned the one person who had inquired, but the IRS's ruling could be disastrous for Blackwater, considering that the vast majority of the company's hired guns are independent contractors.

The IRS warned that its ruling "may be applicable to any other individuals engaged by the firm," which Waxman believes could pertain to the majority of those working Blackwater contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Getting their accounting in line with IRS expectations could add up to millions in back taxes for the company.

Blackwater's situation could also have sweeping implications across the private security industry, which uses (or abuses in Waxman's and, possibly, the IRS's view) independent contractor agreements to manage their work force.

Letter from IRS to Blackwater20071022100001.pdf

Letter from Henry Waxman to Erik Prince 20071022094624.pdf

Redacted non-disclosure agreement 20071022100027.pdf

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Report: Heavier Armor May Not Be Ideal Response to IED Threat
10/18/2007 10:23 AM ET
A Category III Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty
A Category III Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP)

"The MRAP is not likely to prove a panacea for the IED threat," Andrew Krepinevich and Dakota Wood write in a new report on the heavily-armored vehicle released by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The authors say a number of factors should be debated to determine the appropriate balance of armored vehicles for the US military's use in battle, rather than transitioning wholesale to MRAPs because of their success in combating the threat from IEDs.

First, the authors point out, the latest models of Humvees cost from $150,000 to $250,000, while MRAPs run closer to 800,000.

MRAPs are also five times heavier, which increases fuel consumption significantly. In addition to the added expense--not considered a major factor if the investment return saves soldiers' lives--the demand for more fuel would add more tanker trucks to the roads, which would make for more attractive and vulnerable targets for insurgent's IEDs.

Rather than increasing the armor protecting soldiers, which has the effect of further isolating them from their surrounding environment and the local population, the authors reason that getting soldiers out of their vehicles and patrolling on foot might be a more effective long-term weapon against the scourge of IEDs.

Though getting the troops out of their vehicles and walking could leave them dangerously exposed and might incur casualties at the outset, the contact soldiers would have with the local population would build important relationships--critical for the development of the intelligence necessary to defeat those who make the IEDs. "Simply put," the authors write:

Commanders may have to risk some casualties in the near term, by having their troops dismount, in order to develop the secure environment that yields the intelligence that will reduce the insurgent threat—and US casualties—over the longer term. Given this approach, which is consistent with the military’s new COIN doctrine, the MRAP—at least in this situation—may send the wrong message to troops in the field.

Further, the authors have concern that the US military is rushing the MRAP program, ramping up production just as the troop presence in Iraq is being reduced. The justification for the urgent increase in production is based on one narrowly-focused consideration, without looking forward to consider how the expensive and difficult-to-transport vehicles might be used in future conflicts.

Read the whole report here: R.20071017.Of_IEDs_and_MRAPs.pdf

U.S. Politics
Foreign Affairs "Campaign 2008" Posts Policy Plans for White House Hopefuls
10/17/2007 5:21 PM ET
Joe Raedle/Getty
David McNew/Getty

Hilary Clinton wins the prize for outlining the most detailed plan for the way forward in Iraq in the Foreign Affairs series "Campaign 2008," an ongoing feature that showcases the presidential candidates' foreign policy plans.

So far, the series has featured Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Clinton from the Democratic side, and Rudy Guliani, Mitt Romney, and John McCain from the Republicans. Here's a compilation of what the candidates proposed as their future administrations' plans for Iraq.

Hillary Clinton

Ending the war in Iraq is the first step toward restoring the United States' global leadership. The war is sapping our military strength, absorbing our strategic assets, diverting attention and resources from Afghanistan, alienating our allies, and dividing our people. The war in Iraq has also stretched our military to the breaking point. We must rebuild our armed services and restore them body and soul.

We must withdraw from Iraq in a way that brings our troops home safely, begins to restore stability to the region, and replaces military force with a new diplomatic initiative to engage countries around the world in securing Iraq's future. To that end, as president, I will convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of defense, and the National Security Council and direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home, starting within the first 60 days of my administration.

While working to stabilize Iraq as our forces withdraw, I will focus U.S. aid on helping Iraqis, not propping up the Iraqi government. Financial resources will go only where they will be used properly, rather than to government ministries or ministers that hoard, steal, or waste them.

As we leave Iraq militarily, I will replace our military force with an intensive diplomatic initiative in the region. The Bush administration has belatedly begun to engage Iran and Syria in talks about the future of Iraq. This is a step in the right direction, but much more must be done. As president, I will convene a regional stabilization group composed of key allies, other global powers, and all the states bordering Iraq. Working with the newly appointed UN special representative for Iraq, the group will be charged with developing and implementing a strategy for achieving a stable Iraq that provides incentives for Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey to stay out of the civil war.

Finally, we need to engage the world in a global humanitarian effort to confront the human costs of this war. We must address the plight of the two million Iraqis who have fled their country and the two million more who have been displaced internally. This will require a multibillion-dollar international effort under the direction of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Meanwhile, the United States, along with governments in Europe and the Middle East, must agree to accept asylum seekers and help them return to Iraq when it is safe for them to do so.

As we redeploy our troops from Iraq, we must not let down our guard against terrorism. I will order specialized units to engage in targeted operations against al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist organizations in the region. These units will also provide security for U.S. troops and personnel in Iraq and train and equip Iraqi security services to keep order and promote stability in the country, but only to the extent that such training is actually working. I will also consider leaving some forces in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq in order to protect the fragile but real democracy and relative peace and security that have developed there, but with the clear understanding that the terrorist organization the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) must be dealt with and the Turkish border must be respected.

Getting out of Iraq will enable us to play a constructive role in a renewed Middle East peace process that would mean security and normal relations for Israel and the Palestinians. The fundamental elements of a final agreement have been clear since 2000: a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in return for a declaration that the conflict is over, recognition of Israel's right to exist, guarantees of Israeli security, diplomatic recognition of Israel, and normalization of its relations with Arab states. U.S. diplomacy is critical in helping to resolve this conflict. In addition to facilitating negotiations, we must engage in regional diplomacy to gain Arab support for a Palestinian leadership that is committed to peace and willing to engage in a dialogue with the Israelis. Whether or not the United States makes progress in helping to broker a final agreement, consistent U.S. involvement can lower the level of violence and restore our credibility in the region.

To help our forces recover from Iraq and prepare them to confront the full range of twenty-first-century threats, I will work to expand and modernize the military so that fighting wars no longer comes at the expense of deployments for long-term deterrence, military readiness, or responses to urgent needs at home. As the only senator serving on the Transformation Advisory Group established by the U.S. Joint Forces Command, I have had the chance to explore these issues in detail. Ongoing military innovation is essential, but the Bush administration has undermined this goal by focusing obsessively on expensive and unproven missile defense technology while making the tragically misguided assumption that light invasion forces could not only conquer the Taliban and Saddam Hussein but also stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq.

Our brave soldiers who are wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq must receive the health care, benefits, training, and support they deserve. The treatment of wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center was a travesty. Those convalescing or struggling to build new lives after grievous injuries need an expanded version of the Family and Medical Leave Act to enable their families to provide the support they need. Beyond health care, it is also time to develop a modern GI Bill of Rights in order to expand professional and entrepreneurial opportunities as well as access to education and home ownership.

Clinton's devoted more attention to the Iraq issue than any of the other candidates, and proposed the most comprehensive and specific plan. She also advocates a re-focus on Afghanistan and the "real" war on terror, a reduction in reliance on foreign oil and move to alternate sources of energy, a program to secure loose nukes, and a boost to foreign assistance targeting education and disease eradication.

John McCain (R)

Defeating radical Islamist extremists is the national security challenge of our time. Iraq is this war's central front, according to our commander there, General David Petraeus, and according to our enemies, including al Qaeda's leadership.

The recent years of mismanagement and failure in Iraq demonstrate that America should go to war only with sufficient troop levels and with a realistic and comprehensive plan for success. We did not do so in Iraq, and our country and the people of Iraq have paid a dear price. Only after four years of conflict did the United States adopt a counterinsurgency strategy, backed by increased force levels, that gives us a realistic chance of success. We cannot get those years back, and now the only responsible action for any presidential candidate is to look forward and outline the strategic posture in Iraq that is most likely to protect U.S. national interests.

So long as we can succeed in Iraq -- and I believe that we can -- we must succeed. The consequences of failure would be horrific: a historic loss at the hands of Islamist extremists who, after having defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the United States in Iraq, will believe that the world is going their way and that anything is possible; a failed state in the heart of the Middle East providing sanctuary for terrorists; a civil war that could quickly develop into a regional conflict and even genocide; a decisive end to the prospect of a modern democracy in Iraq, for which large Iraqi majorities have repeatedly voted; and an invitation for Iran to dominate Iraq and the region even more.

Whether success grows closer or more distant over the coming months, it is clear that Iraq will be a central issue for the next U.S. president. Democratic candidates have promised to withdraw U.S. troops and "end the war" by fiat, regardless of the consequences. To make such decisions based on the political winds at home, rather than on the realities in the theater, is to court disaster. The war in Iraq cannot be wished away, and it is a miscalculation of historic magnitude to believe that the consequences of failure will be limited to one administration or one party. This is an American war, and its outcome will touch every one of our citizens for years to come.

That is why I support our continuing efforts to win in Iraq. It is also why I oppose a preemptive withdrawal strategy that has no Plan B for the aftermath of its inevitable failure and the greater problems that would ensue.

In his boldest initiative, McCain suggests his administration would establish "a free-trade area from Morocco to Afghanistan, open to all who do not sponsor terrorism," though he gives no indication of how such a plan could be implemented. McCain says he would also work to revitalize public diplomacy, modernize the military, and would establish a new language-instruction program in civilian and military schools to teach scores of students Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, and Pashto.

John Edwards (D)

We must move beyond the wreckage created by one of the greatest strategic failures in U.S. history: the war in Iraq. Rather than alienating the rest of the world through assertions of infallibility and demands of obedience, as the current administration has done, U.S. foreign policy must be driven by a strategy of reengagement....

We should begin our reengagement with the world by bringing an end to the Iraq war. Iraq's problems are deep and dangerous, but they cannot be solved by the U.S. military. For over a year, I have argued for an immediate withdrawal of 40,000 to 50,000 U.S. combat troops from Iraq, followed by an orderly and complete withdrawal of all combat troops. Once we are out of Iraq, the United States must retain sufficient forces in the region to prevent a genocide, a regional spillover of the civil war, or the establishment of an al Qaeda safe haven. We will most likely need to retain quick-reaction forces in Kuwait and a significant naval presence in the Persian Gulf. We will also need some security capabilities in Baghdad, inside the Green Zone, to protect the U.S. embassy and U.S. personnel. Finally, we will need a diplomatic offensive to engage the rest of the world -- including Middle Eastern nations and our allies in Europe -- in working to secure Iraq's future. All of these measures will finally allow us to close this terrible chapter and move on to the broader challenges of the new century.

Edwards says he would also use economic pressure to work to prevent Iran from procuring a nuclear weapon and North Korea from enriching unranium, establish a "Marshall Corps" (named after Gen. George Marshall) of civilian experts who could deploy abroad in times of crisis, and increase foreign assistance in education, and disease eradication programs.

Rudy Guliani (R)

We must learn from these experiences for the long war that lies ahead. It is almost certain that U.S. troops will still be fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan when the next president takes office. The purpose of this fight must be to defeat the terrorists and the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and to allow these countries to become members of the international system in good standing. We must be under no illusions that either Iraq or Afghanistan will quickly attain the levels of peace and security enjoyed in the developed world today. Our aim should be to help them build accountable, functioning governments that can serve the needs of their populations, reduce violence within their borders, and eliminate the export of terror. As violence decreases and security improves, more responsibility can and should be turned over to local security forces. But some U.S. forces will need to remain for some time in order to deter external threats.

We cannot predict when our efforts will be successful. But we can predict the consequences of failure: Afghanistan would revert to being a safe haven for terrorists, and Iraq would become another one -- larger, richer, and more strategically located. Parts of Iraq would undoubtedly fall under the sway of our enemies, particularly Iran, which would use its influence to direct even more terror at U.S. interests and U.S. allies than it does today. The balance of power in the Middle East would tip further toward terror, extremism, and repression. America's influence and prestige -- not just in the Middle East but around the world -- would be dealt a shattering blow. Our allies would conclude that we cannot back up our commitments with sustained action. Our enemies -- both terrorists and rogue states -- would be emboldened. They would see further opportunities to weaken the international state system that is the primary defense of civilization. Much as our enemies in the 1990s concluded from our inconsistent response to terrorism then, our enemies today would conclude that America's will is weak and the civilization we pledged to defend is tired. Failure would be an invitation for more war, in even more difficult and dangerous circumstances....

Our goal is to see in Iraq and Afghanistan the emergence of stable governments and societies that can act as our allies against the terrorists and not as breeding grounds for expanded terrorist activities. Succeeding in Iraq and Afghanistan is necessary but not sufficient. Ultimately, these are only two battlegrounds in a wider war. The United States must not rest until the al Qaeda network is destroyed and its leaders, from Osama bin Laden on down, are killed or captured. And the United States must not rest until the global terrorist movement and its ideology are defeated.

Guliani does not so much outline a plan for the way forward in Iraq so much as he does justify why his administration would stay the course. Beyond Iraq, Guliani's international security policy would include an expansion of military power, an emphasis on diplomacy, re-building international institutions, and an attempt to expand America's cultural and economic influence.

Barack Obama (D)

To renew American leadership in the world, we must first bring the Iraq war to a responsible end and refocus our attention on the broader Middle East. Iraq was a diversion from the fight against the terrorists who struck us on 9/11, and incompetent prosecution of the war by America's civilian leaders compounded the strategic blunder of choosing to wage it in the first place. We have now lost over 3,300 American lives, and thousands more suffer wounds both seen and unseen.

Our servicemen and servicewomen have performed admirably while sacrificing immeasurably. But it is time for our civilian leaders to acknowledge a painful truth: we cannot impose a military solution on a civil war between Sunni and Shiite factions. The best chance we have to leave Iraq a better place is to pressure these warring parties to find a lasting political solution. And the only effective way to apply this pressure is to begin a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces, with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008 -- a date consistent with the goal set by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. This redeployment could be temporarily suspended if the Iraqi government meets the security, political, and economic benchmarks to which it has committed. But we must recognize that, in the end, only Iraqi leaders can bring real peace and stability to their country.

At the same time, we must launch a comprehensive regional and international diplomatic initiative to help broker an end to the civil war in Iraq, prevent its spread, and limit the suffering of the Iraqi people. To gain credibility in this effort, we must make clear that we seek no permanent bases in Iraq. We should leave behind only a minimal over-the-horizon military force in the region to protect American personnel and facilities, continue training Iraqi security forces, and root out al Qaeda.

The morass in Iraq has made it immeasurably harder to confront and work through the many other problems in the region -- and it has made many of those problems considerably more dangerous. Changing the dynamic in Iraq will allow us to focus our attention and influence on resolving the festering conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians -- a task that the Bush administration neglected for years....

Throughout the Middle East, we must harness American power to reinvigorate American diplomacy. Tough-minded diplomacy, backed by the whole range of instruments of American power -- political, economic, and military -- could bring success even when dealing with long-standing adversaries such as Iran and Syria. Our policy of issuing threats and relying on intermediaries to curb Iran's nuclear program, sponsorship of terrorism, and regional aggression is failing. Although we must not rule out using military force, we should not hesitate to talk directly to Iran. Our diplomacy should aim to raise the cost for Iran of continuing its nuclear program by applying tougher sanctions and increasing pressure from its key trading partners. The world must work to stop Iran's uranium-enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. At the same time, we must show Iran -- and especially the Iranian people -- what could be gained from fundamental change: economic engagement, security assurances, and diplomatic relations. Diplomacy combined with pressure could also reorient Syria away from its radical agenda to a more moderate stance -- which could, in turn, help stabilize Iraq, isolate Iran, free Lebanon from Damascus' grip, and better secure Israel.

Obama goes on to lay out a security plan that would include an expansion of the armed forces, a re-focus on operations along the Afghan-Pakistan border, attention to re-building fractured international partnerships, and buttressing the US's democracy-promotion agenda by increasing foreign assistance funding.

Mitt Romney (R)

While the difficult struggle in Iraq dominates the political debate, we cannot let current polls and political dynamics drive us to repeat mistakes the United States has made at critical moments of doubt and uncertainty about our role in the world. Twice in the last several decades, following the end of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, the United States became dangerously unprepared. Today, among our main challenges are an Iranian regime and an al Qaeda network that developed while we let down our defenses. Whether or not the current "surge" in troop levels in Iraq succeeds, the United States and our allies need to be prepared to deal not only with the struggle against jihadists but with a new generation of challenges that go far beyond any single nation or conflict.

We need an honest debate about what policies and what sacrifices will ensure a strong America and a safe world. As President Ronald Reagan once observed, "There have been four wars in my lifetime. None of them came about because the United States was too strong." A strong America requires a strong military and a strong economy. And we need to take further action if we are to remain strong and if we are to build a safe world, with peace, prosperity, freedom, and dignity. Doing so will be controversial, and it will be strongly resisted because it will require dramatic changes to Cold War institutions and approaches. The Cold War is over, and the world that too many of our current capabilities and alliances were created to address no longer exists. We cannot remain mired in the past.

Romney dances around the subject of the way forward in Iraq, waxing poetic about the difficulty of change and the importance of success, but skimping on the specifics. Instead, he devotes the bulk of his piece to explaining his "four key pillars of action": expanding the military, achieving energy independence, reforming civilian government agencies, and returning to a multilateral approach in foreign relations.

Link To Report
UK Think Tank Reports US Misunderstands Root Cause of Qaeda Movement
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 10/09/2007 11:13 AM ET
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: The twin towers of the World Trade Center billow smoke after hijacked airliners crashed into them early 11 September, 2001.
Henry Ray Abrams/AFP/Getty
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: The twin towers of the World Trade Center billow smoke after hijacked airliners crashed into them early 11 September, 2001.

The US-led strategy for the war on terror has fueled Islamist extremism, rather than reducing its threat, according to a new report released Monday by a respected British think tank.

The Oxford Research Group (ORG) judges that the United States and its allies need to better understand the roots of the al Qaeda movement and alter policy to undercut its appeal at every level, though the report contends it would take at least a decade to correct the mistakes of the past six years.

A dominant factor is that the US-led invasion of Iraq was a "grievous mistake", which created a training mecca for radical Islamists linked to or inspired by Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda, a situation the report compares to the growth of the mujahideen movement in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

"Every aspect of the war on terror has been counterproductive in Iraq and Afghanistan, from the loss of civilian life through mass detentions without trial. In short, it has been a disaster," the report's author Paul Rogers writes.

"Western countries simply have to face up to the dangerous mistakes of the past six years and recognize the need for new policies."

Rogers, professor of peace studies at the University of Bradford, northern England, suggests that withdrawing foreign forces from Iraq, ramping up diplomacy--particularly with Syria and Iran--and increasing civil assistance and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan could help, though continuing down the path towards military confrontation with Iran would pile on to the list of mistakes.

"Going to war with Iran will make matters far worse, playing directly into the hands of extreme elements and adding greatly to the violence across the region," Rogers writes.

"Whatever the problems with Iran, war should be avoided at all costs -- the mistakes already made will be completely overshadowed by the consequences of a war with Iran."

While I tend to agree with Rogers' point about the potential for serious negative consequences resulting from military action against Iran, it should be noted that one of the key principles of the Oxford Research group is "to encourage and promote a deep shift in the way that people think about security, based on the understanding that lasting security is not attainable through military means."

The report, "Towards Sustainable Security: Alternative Approaches to the War on Terror", is available for purchase on the Oxford Research Group's website.

Oversight Chairman Demands Answers About Contractor in Christmas Eve Shooting
10/05/2007 7:03 PM ET
House Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman is not letting up the heat, firing off a new letter to the State Department Friday after CNN reported that the Blackwater contractor who shot a bodyguard of Iraqi Vice-President Adel Abdul Mehdi in December 2006 was back to work for another contractor within a couple of months.

After being expelled from the country following the shooting incident, Andrew J. Moonen returned to Kuwait in February, working for a Defense Department contractor, Combat Support Associates.

The chairman of the House committee on oversight and government reform writes to Secretary Rice that, "It is hard to reconcile this development with the State Department's claim that 'We are scrupulous in terms of oversight and scrutiny not only of Blackwater but all of our contractors.'"

Waxman slams the State Department failure to inform the Defense Department about the reasons for Moonen's dismissal, and with this hits on a key problem regarding contractors.

If a security contractor gets kicked off one contract there is always another one out there needing warm bodies. The new employer may do standard background checks, but that only canvasses for legal infractions.

Waxman writes that the measures State testified to taking to ensure contractors who got kicked off of the WPPS contract did not return to the WPPS contract were "apparently insufficient to prevent Mr. Moonen from securing re-employment in the Iraq War."

But of course, the WPPS contract is only one of many in the war.

Waxman requested the State Department submit all the documentation it has regarding the Christmas Eve shooting and Andrew Moonen, and in a separate letter to Combat Support Associates asks for their records on the contractor.

Here's Waxman's full letter


DC Buzz
Iraq's National Security Advisor Urges Engagement With Tehran on His DC Tour
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - SEPTEMBER 12: Iraqi National Security Advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie speaks at press conference in the heavily fortified Green Zone on September 12, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Hadi Mizban/Getty
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - SEPTEMBER 12: Iraqi National Security Advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie speaks at press conference in the heavily fortified Green Zone on September 12, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq.

Iran is supplying weaponry to groups that target the US in Iraq, and should be engaged about its conduct, but dropping bombs on the country would be a dangerous error. That's the basic message Iraq's National Security Advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie has been spreading around Washington, DC in multiple engagements this week.

Rubaie became markedly more intense during an appearance at CSIS on Friday when telling the audience that attacking Iran militarily would be a "fatal mistake," adding emphatically, "It should never be an option."

He also echoed his headline-generating comment from an appearance Wednesday at the Nixon Center, where he insisted that there should be “absolutely no—big fat no, N-O—bombing of Iran."

In Rubaie's view, the Iranian response would be to ramp up activities inside his country, putting Iraq in the crossfire between two arch enemies.

"They will react against us," al-Rubaie explained. "They will not come to New York. They will not come to Washington. They will come to us, I can tell you that, and we will be in big, big trouble. We are not ready for that."

Despite Rubaie's strong emphasis on the need for dialogue, his discussion of Iranian weapons being funneled into Iraq captured the attention of Robin Wright and Ann Scott Tyson during an appearance at the Washington Post, becoming a story that will likely be widely cited as evidence supporting military action against Iran.

Rubaie told the Post Iran's war supplies to militants include upgrades from RPG-7s, a shoulder-fired, rocket-propelled grenade first used by the Soviet Union in the 1960s, to the much more deadly RPG-29, a larger, new generation anti-tank weapon with warheads capable of penetrating American tank armor.

Iran also has provided militants with 240mm missiles that can hit targets 25 to 30 miles away, the longest-range missile now used against U.S. troops in Iraq, and more advanced surface-to-air missiles, Rubaie said.

More than halfway through the article, it's revealed that Rubaie believes Iran accelerated the supply of weapons after diplomatic contacts with the United States hit another impasse in early August. "We believe that when they stopped engagement in the beginning of August, that's when upgraded the arms," he said.

Further, Rubaie told the Post that the increasing pressure the US puts on Iran will continue being played out inside Iraq, worsening the already unstable situation.

Understanding that kind of perspective makes it no surprise that "engagement" became Rubaie's mantra at all his DC appearances this week. And not just any engagement, but "positive, constructive, serious engagement," he told CSIS Friday.

Full Text
Former Iraqi Anti-Corruption Judge Rivets US House Oversight Committee
10/04/2007 4:10 PM ET
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 04: Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi (R), former Commissioner of Public Integrity in Iraq, shakes hands with ranking member Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) (L) as committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) (C) looks on prior to a hearing before the
Alex Wong/Getty
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 04: Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi (R), former Commissioner of Public Integrity in Iraq, shakes hands with ranking member Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) (L) as committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) (C) looks on prior to a hearing before the

The Iraqi government has successfully blocked over one hundred billion Iraqi dinars ($82.4 million USD) worth of corruption cases, Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, former Commissioner of Public Integrity in Iraq told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Thursday.

Radhi painted a fairly bleak portrait of entrenched Iraqi corruption, and a frightening account of what happens to those who try to pursue the worst violators.

Of the 3,000 corruption cases we successfully investigated and forwarded to the courts for adjudication, only 241 cases to date were adjudicated with guilty sentences ranging between six months and one hundred and twenty years. However, the cost of corruption that my Commission has uncovered so far across all ministries in Iraq has been estimated to be as high as $18 billion.

Radhi also outlined the kind of dangers an investigator of corruption faces in Iraq:

Since the establishment of the Commission of Public Integrity, 31 employees have been assassinated as well as at least an additional 12 family members. In a number of cases, my staff and their relatives have been kidnapped or detained and tortured prior to being killed. Many of these people were gunned down at close range. This includes my staff member Mohammed Abd Salif who was gunned down with his seven month pregnant wife. In one case of targeted death and torture, the security Chief on my staff, was repeatedly threatened with death. His father was recently kidnapped and killed because of his son’s work at CPI. His body was found hung from a meat hook. One of my staff members who performed clerical duties was protected by my security staff, but his father was kidnapped because his son worked at CPI. This staff member’s father was 80 years old. When his dead body was found, a power drill had been used to drill his body with holes. Waleed Kashmoula was the head of CPI's Mosul branch office reporting directly me. In March 2005, A suicide bomber met with Waleed in his office wearing a suicide vest. He greeted Waleed and then detonated his vest killing Waleed.

And Radhi said those were only a few examples.

He also accuses Maliki and the Iraqi government of blocking investigations and shielding corrupt officials, Parliament of not passing serious anti-corruption legislation, the judiciary of not adjudicating corruption cases, the ministry of oil of funding terrorism, and says the ministries of defense and interior officials are the most corrupt.

When specifically asked by Chairman Henry Waxman if he thought Prime Minister Maliki was corrupt, Radhi said he was a judge and couldn't really make that determination. But he added that what he did know was that Maliki had stopped investigations concerning his own relatives.

Radhi al-Radhi's Full Prepared Statement 20071004103646.pdf Stuart Bowen's Full Prepared Statement 20071004102651.pdf Amb David Walker's Full Prepared Statement 20071004140154.pdf

Full Report PDF
Oversight Committee Releases Account of Downing of Flight 61 in Afghanistan
10/02/2007 4:36 PM ET
"A combination of reckless conduct by the Blackwater pilots and multiple mistakes by Blackwater, including hiring unqualified and inexperienced pilots, failure to file flight plans, and failure to have proper equipment for tracking and locating missing aircraft," led to the November 27, 2004 crash of a Blackwater flight in Afghanistan and the death of its crew and passengers, according to a report released Tuesday by the House Oversight Committee staff.

The briefing memo was put together in preparation for Blackwater CEO Erik Prince's appearance at Tuesday's oversight hearing, and was based on an NTSB investigation and the joint inquiry of a US Air Force and Army task force.

Though it's not Iraq-related, the account does add ammunition to the campaign for stricter controls over the use of private contractors.

Committee on Oversight Briefing Memo on Crash of Blackwater Flight 61 20071002135936.pdf


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