Are We There Yet? Creating a Roadmap to Victory in Iraq
When can we leave?
Recently, in a highly visible move, several politicians have called for the immediate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq or tried to force the Bush administration to set criteria for withdrawal:
A conservative, a moderate, a liberal and a libertarian teamed up in the House yesterday to prod President Bush to set a timetable to withdraw from Iraq, striking a rare tone of unity on a day when tensions about national security provoked marathon brawling on the floor.
The resolution was sponsored by Reps. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.), Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Ron Paul (R-Tex.). It calls for Bush to begin drawing down troops in Iraq by Oct. 1, 2006, but does not set a date for complete withdrawal.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) tried to introduce an amendment to a military spending bill that would have given the president 30 days to show Congress criteria for determining when U.S. forces could withdraw from Iraq -- but GOP leaders blocked it, saying such additions are not allowed to appropriations bills.
Read more here. The resolution is here.
And Senator Biden has been in the news recently with his proclamations on Iraq:
Biden, a Delaware senator who announced on Sunday that he expects to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, rejected proposals by some of his colleagues to pull troops out of Iraq immediately or on a specific timetable, saying such moves would embolden insurgents and ultimately lead to a civil war. Instead, he said the United States needs to enlist the support of allied nations to train Iraqi troops and police, speed up reconstruction work, and help the nascent Iraqi government fight corruption.
Biden also called on President Bush to explain his plans for Iraq to the American people. The administration should report on the situation in Iraq to Congress monthly and in public testimony, the senator said in remarks at the Brookings Institution.
Rumsfeld fired back:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected calls by some congressional Democrats on Thursday that the Bush administration set a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. “That would be a mistake,” he told a Senate panel.
“Timing in war is never predictable. There are never guarantees,” Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Those who say we are losing this war are wrong. We are not.”
The Vice President thinks we’re on the track to victory:
“The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.”
But, in recent Senate testimony GEN John Abizaid said:
“I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago.”
That clearly isn’t good news, and our own government doesn’t seem “common operating picture” of what’s going on in Iraq much less the media. Plus, none of the talk about defeating the insurgency sheds any light on the other challenges that face victory in Iraq.
So who is right?
Regardless of whether or not you support the war, I agree with Senator Biden’s assessment. It is clear that immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be reckless policy and result in a disaster that might suck the entire region down with it—the Afghanistan failed state model on a grand scale with global repercussions. Remember the “pottery barn rule”. We broke it, we bought it. And I’m going to side with GEN Abizaid. I don’t think the insurgency is in its death throes.
So what they hell is going to happen? As a person with a very personal interest in the apparent open-ended nature of the Iraq conflict, I agree that we need to start setting criteria for “victory” and subsequent withdrawal from Iraq. I respect the members of congress who are force the administration to establish some kind of framework for ending the conflict.
But, this is where things get hard. What does right look like for leaving Iraq? What conditions for success do we need to set for the Iraqis before we begin to leave? And how long does it take?
In April, I posted about effects based operations (EBO) and setting criteria and “metrics” to measure success in Iraq. With this post, I’ll want to take the discussion a step further.
The following slides and notes are my attempt at analyzing the current situation in Iraq and establishing a “roadmap” to Victory that the average citizen can understand. Note that all these slides are labeled as “drafts”. I am hoping that my reader(s) will give me their input in the comments section which will allow me to establish a baseline evaluation of the situation. Then, I’ll post periodic updates.
EBO treats the enemy as a "system of systems". This is the
pre-invasion Iraq system with the Regime being the center of
gravity. The relative importance of a sub-system is mapped by
its size and proximity to the center of gravity.
This is the traditional military model that we are best
prepared to fight. Decapitate the Regime, and destroy the
high value military units.
***Note 1: Civilian Population. In the pre-war planning the
biggest consideration was averting a humanitarian crisis
and minimizing collateral damage. We expected to be greeted
as liberators, but the reality on the ground turned more
***Note 2: Religious and Tribal Power. I think we underestimated
the impact and importance of this element and were left
playing catch up.
This is the current system of systems. Note how the center
of gravity is now the Iraqi population itself, an element we
didn't have a clear understanding of going into Iraq.
Note the convoluted nature of the insurgency, and how
convoluted web of sub-systems impacts the civilian population.
The emergence of many of these systems was unexpected or
their impact underestimated.
These are the four key tasks that need to be accomplished in
order to secure "victory" in Iraq. Subsequent slides
expand on the tasks.
This is a break down of Task 1. The "rainbow" slide bars
indicate the status of the task. Red is bad. Green is good.
Below the slide bars are arrows to indicate which directions
the tasks are trending. All of the bars are parked in neutral,
and will be adjusted after the readers assessment.
Task 1 (con't)
Task breakdown by region.
So when can we withdrawal from Iraq? My assessment is that first we have to get all of these tasks and regions are assessed in the “green”. Then they have to stay that way for at least a year, and only then we can start leaving. As things trend towards the “green” we may be able to draw down our troops, but, until all these criteria are met, we will stay in Iraq in one form or another.
I will post the task list in the comments section so you can cut and paste. Feel free to add and subtract. Tell me I’m wrong. In a couple weeks, I’ll republish the slides with the task bars actually measuring an assessment. Then I’ll do periodic updates.
Update: The Brookings Institution has some good metrics in their Iraq Index. Worth a look.