Thomas R. Pickering, Task Force co-chair; senior vice-president for international relations, The Boeing Company; former U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations
James R. Schlesinger, Task Force co-chair; senior advisor, Lehman Brothers; former U.S. Defense and Energy Secretary
James F. Dobbins, Task Force member; director of Rand's Center for International Security and Defense Policy
Council on Foreign Relations
Tuesday, March 9, 2004
JAMES SCHLESINGER: [In progress] --the planned transfer of sovereignty on 30 June, reports of U.S. troop reductions in Iraqi cities, and uncertainty about the long-term funding have all raised questions about the U.S. commitment to sustained long-term engagement in Iraq. And this has caused concern within Iraq that we may not stay the course. We are therefore urging that the president, the Democratic nominee, and congressional leaders declare that the coalition forces will continue to provide essential security until the Iraqi security forces can do so on their own; to emphasize that the transfer of sovereignty does not signal a diminished U.S. commitment to supporting stability, reconstruction and a peaceful political transition; to affirm that the United States is prepared to sustain a multi-billion dollar commitment to Iraq for at least the next several years; to ensure the broad involvement of Iraqis; and to promote a leading role for the United Nations in the political transition process.
Let me turn now to security. Security continues as a major focus of our efforts. As we indicated in our report last year, security is crucial. It enables us to achieve— it is essential for achievement of all of the coalition's goals in Iraq. Of course, the situation is complicated, as recent attacks on Iraqi civilians and security personnel reveal that resistance to the coalition presence, as well as efforts to promote a democratic transformation, is less a guerrilla war against an occupation military forces than it is a campaign of terror against Iraqis. Indeed, some of the trends are, in a sense, favorable. First, we have a reduction in the attacks on American forces. Then we have a shift away from American forces to attacks on security personnel of the Iraqis. And finally, we have generalized attacks and the assaults on Shia, assaults on Muslims. The targets have been slowly shifting. And now the opposition is reduced basically to terrorist attacks. That is better than focused attacks.
After almost a year of intense efforts, including the ongoing deployment within Iraq of nearly 150,000 coalition troops, a stable and secure environment remains elusive. Despite recent and encouraging reports of joint patrols by the U.S. military with their Iraqi counterparts, there are perceptions that force protection concerns are impeding attainment of stability objectives. We stress in our report that Iraqi forces have yet to develop a capacity to handle security on their own and that coalition forces must continue to play a key role in creating a safe and secure environment where reconstruction and political transitional activities may take place. We call for a review of intended U.S. troop reductions from Iraqi cities to see to it that those forces are not withdrawn until such time as Iraqi security forces can pick up the burden of protecting their fellow citizens from these terrorist attacks.
In addition, the task force recommends that the U.S. military continue and accelerate their partnering with Iraqi forces, that they link the pace of U.S. troop withdrawals to clear criteria that includes ongoing risks to civilians; that they standardize security training efforts for Iraqis, increase the resources for this objective, and recognize that training is a long-term exercise that should include a focus on institution-building, that they enhance intelligence capabilities, including the capacity of Iraqis. Let me say that we are going to become increasingly dependent on the Iraqis for intelligence, that they have the capacity to distinguish who are coming in from the outside, who the terrorists continue to be. And unless they bring that information either to us or to their own security forces, we will continue to have these problems.
And finally, to promote the recruitment of constabulary forces and civil police with the involvement and the support of the United Nations. In this respect, we strongly support efforts to promote a NATO role. With that, let me turn the microphone over to Tom to talk about the U.S. civilian assistance effort and the role of the United Nations in the political transition.
THOMAS PICKERING: Thank you, Jim, very much. Let me begin by joining you and Lee in saying how much we appreciate the contribution that Eric Schwartz has made to drafting this report and bringing together the different views of 20-plus serious experts who were convened in the task force to look, on a continuing basis, at this problem on behalf of the Council and whose report Jim and I will try to summarize today and about which we will talk with you in a few minutes in terms of your own questions.
Let me begin with the civilian assistance effort. It's really hard to overestimate the assistance challenge that is now being faced in Iraq. To quote from an official document, the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] describes its mandate to include, and I quote, protecting Iraqi territorial integrity and working to provide security to the Iraqi people, and it continues, rebuilding all aspects of Iraqi infrastructure so that, upon turnover to the first democratically-elected government Iraq has ever known, that government will assume authority over a country ready, both internally and externally, to function economically, provide basic services to its citizens, provide for its own defense, and play a responsible role in the international community of nations.
As we say in the report, setting out these ambitious goals has been far easier than developing the capacity to implement them comprehensively. And the CPA has faced a number of serious obstacles, including uncertain staffing, restrictions on movement of personnel, and other problems. And I emphasize, all of these are in addition to the security environment which Jim has so ably and carefully outlined for you just a minute ago. At the same time, with the phase-out of the CPA in June and the movement of the aid operation to a new United States embassy, our most important recommendation may not relate to the CPA as such, but rather to the need to move quickly to structure the administration and staffing of a new U.S. embassy that must be and ought to be a key U.S. priority. And we understand that that is an area in which there is ongoing work.
We also urge that the administration seek to unify the assistance effort between the Departments of Defense and State and USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development], all of which have overlapping mandates. We suggest the appointment of a U.S. assistance coordinator to develop a plan that would bring together essential reconstruction, political and security components. We also offer a range of ideas for enhancing the coalition's effort to help Iraqis become more involved in the future management of their country. These efforts include increasing dramatically incentives for U.S. government service in Iraq; having the president hold Cabinet members personally accountable for providing expert personnel to assist in reconstruction, promoting job creation in Iraq, advancing the status of women, and implementing a more effective public diplomacy effort in Iraq. I also should state that I personally believe— and I think it's at least implicit in the report— that significantly lengthened tours of duty in Iraq for those government personnel who will receive these incentives are a very important part of success in the future.
Now let me say something briefly about the issue of oil, as we saw it. The report urges much greater efforts than have been made thus far to ensure transparency and accountability in the oil industry, in part by linking international financial institution assistance to Iraq to professional management procedures that would include financial controls on revenues, independent auditing, and certification of oil exports. Given the impending transition to Iraqi sovereignty, these particular questions surrounding the oil industry are, in our view, critical.
Now let me turn to the political transition process, which we've all followed with interest, at the end of the week and over the weekend. Events of the past several days have demonstrated clearly that management of the transition process between now and elections for a transitional assembly will be a very complicated and complex undertaking. The challenge will be to broaden and deepen a relatively fragile political consensus reflected in the new transitional administrative law, and in support of the rule of law and human rights, federalism, the sharing of resources among regions, and other elements that will promote democracy, national unity and stability in Iraq. Here we believe the U.N. should play a leading role in managing this process to help ensure its acceptance by the Iraqi people. If this occurs, U.N. officials will have to make a range of judgments over time about the requirements for an effective, inclusive transition process. And we note in the report that there is a positive aspect to that in the improved climate of U.S-U.N. relations, which we've noted recently. In particular, we believe the U.N. should take responsibility for developing, with U.S. support and assistance, and in conjunction with Iraqis, the process for creating a transitional authority, procedures for elections and other institutions related to the transition process. This will help to ensure a more credible exercise that is accepted by most, if not all, important Iraqi political elements and actors. We suggest that the United Nations, with the support of U.S. officials, might also wish to convene a roundtable meeting of Iraqis, representing a broad cross-section of the population, with a view toward establishing a transitional executive body that could manage basic government functions, coordinate security arrangements, and begin the process of preparing Iraq for elections.
In regard to the U.N. as well, we also call upon the administration to work closely with other governments and U.N. officials to promote a new U.N. Security Council resolution that would first authorize a U.N. role in creating a transitional authority. And we recommend also that the U.N. endorse, possibly in an initial or a subsequent resolution, the transitional authority, as well as the process that will lead up to the adoption of a constitution and elections. Such a resolution could also address and probably ought to address the continuing security role that will be played by coalition forces in Iraq after June 30, 2004. The resolution might also define the relationship between foreign governments and the Iraqi transitional authority, provide for executive policing authority for international civilian police, and endorse the protection of fundamental human rights of all Iraqis.
The report also notes that there is a continuing need, as we said in our chair's report some months ago— the second of the three reports that we're discussing this morning— a need for long-term U.S. capacity to manage post-combat transitions, something that Lee referred to in his opening remarks but I believe in very strongly, something which Jim Dobbins at RAND and others here in this town have or will shortly provide excellent reports on as a part of what I think is a continuing and necessary agenda for any U.S. government as we deal with these particularly important and difficult problems stemming out of Iraq and the war on terrorism, and other issues which I know we will be confronting in the days and months ahead. Thank you, Lee.
MODERATOR: Thanks, Tom. Jim Dobbins.
JAMES DOBBINS: Well, thank you very much for this opportunity to join the chairmen of the task force. As a member of the task force, what strikes me, first of all, is the unusual unanimity that was exhibited in our discussions and in the report. The first report a year ago, although it was also unanimous, had many additional statements appended to it which exhibited a wide range of views on many of the questions that were dealt with. This one only has one statement appended to it, and that on a point that's not central to the report's findings. And I think that's quite unusual and worth remarking.
From my own standpoint, the centerpiece of the report are the findings on security. First of all, the finding that the coalition has to date failed to establish a secure environment, a secure environment without which its many other accomplishments are not likely to endure, and the recommendation that public security be made the centerpiece of coalition military strategy. That is, the overarching objective should be to make Iraq safer for the Iraqis, and in particular for the Iraqis that are prepared to lead that society toward a democratic future. And the suggestion that the coalition should begin developing measures, metrics for determining the degree to which it's being successful— is Iraq, in fact, becoming safer for the average Iraqi and for Iraqi leaders?--so that we can begin to determine whether we're making progress or not toward that central goal.
It's important to recognize that Iraq is in the midst of not just one transition, the transition from occupation to sovereignty, but in fact five rather significant transitions, all of which are to some degree already underway. One, of course, is the relief in place of over 100,000 American troops by a new group of 100,000 American troops. Relief in place is always a tricky military operation, particularly when under fire. This is the largest in modern history, maybe the largest in history ever. And it seems to be going extraordinarily smoothly. The second is the transition from occupation to sovereignty, about which most attention has been made. The third is transition from U.S. responsibility for Iraq's political transition to democracy to a situation in which the U.N. will play a much more central role in the next phase of Iraq's development, both in overseeing elections and in helping the Iraqis develop a permanent constitution. A fourth transition is one toward a more genuinely multilateral effort on the military side. Discussions have already begun about what role NATO might be able to play in the midterm in Iraq. And finally, there's the transition from DoD [Department of Defense] leadership for the civil aspects of reconstruction— that is to say, the political and economic reforms— to State Department leadership for those functions.
It's important that all of these transitions succeed if the overall effort is likely to reach its objectives. And this task force supported and urged the administration to move forward in its discussions with the United Nations, in its discussions with NATO, in configuring itself to manage the large-scale assistance programs in Iraq under civil leadership in the next phase, as well as persisting with the transition from occupation to sovereignty.
MODERATOR: OK, thank you very much. The floor is open for questions. May I ask you to wait for the microphone and to introduce yourself.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. My name is Saeb Erekat from Al Quds newspaper. My question is to Dr. Schlesinger. You suggested that we should stay the course, that the U.S. should stay the course until the Iraqis are able to have security. Now, what about the military? I mean, Iraq could have, let's say, internal security but will be vulnerable to, let's say, more powerful neighbors and so on. So should the U.S. stay there until there is some sort of a capable Iraqi military that can take care of the national security issues? Thank you, sir.
SCHLESINGER: The brief answer is yes. We are going through one of those transitions in which, over time, as the Iraqis can pick up the problem of enhancing security in the cities and the countryside, that the U.S. forces will move into barracks. We don't want that to be too hasty, in a way that pushes responsibility onto the fledgling Iraqi security forces before they're ready to pick up the pace. But those U.S. forces in the barracks will be there to protect the country against possible incursions, possible pressures from outside, from some of their neighbors. And that, I think, will continue so long as it is necessary in the eyes of the Iraqis.
QUESTIONER: How long?
SCHLESINGER: It could be years.
PICKERING: Could I add something to Jim's answer, with which I fully agree? I think the sizing element at the moment for Iraqi security is probably the internal problem and not the external problem. I don't necessarily foresee that changing. I do think the question of timing is critical and almost unanswerable, because a lot of it depends on what Iraqi capabilities can be built, and how effectively, as Jim pointed out, the intelligence issue can be worked and resolved, which I think is critical in dealing with the terror attacks that we see now. I also think that we should go back to our first report and just recall the fact that we had a very short paragraph, which I think is still valid, that Iraq opens the door— I believe, sooner maybe rather than later, depending upon how quickly governments want to pick this up for regional discussions— about regional security issues, which hopefully can set a kind of diplomatic, political, military framework for the longer-term future stability of the Gulf, and would obviously have to involve the littoral states in the Gulf, the neighbors of Iraq perhaps, to ensure that that happens. No one has come forward with proposals or ideas beyond the general suggestion by our first report, but I think it's something that continues to need to be on the agenda.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Yes.
QUESTIONER: Given that this is an independent—
MODERATOR: Please identify yourself.
QUESTIONER: Edward Luttwak, CSIS [Center for Strategic and International Studies]. Given that this is an independent task force, did the task force ever consider before going into the mechanics of this reconstruction the alternative of disengagement? There are, as you know, many people who believe that the attempt to intervene in complex political cultures tend to be counterproductive. There's a theory to that effect. Was that ever examined by the task force, the notion that, for example, attempts to propagate women's rights would lead to women being repressed, you know, that kind of stuff? Sort of reconstruction, Jim Crow, that model? Did anybody examine that before you went into the mechanics?
PICKERING: To the best of my knowledge, Ed, no. As we said in the opening press conference of our opening report, we were pretty much taking what had gone before as part of the circumstances within which we had to work, rather than to spend a lot of our time rewriting and regurgitating the history of the conflict and how we got there. I suspect, without our being explicit about it on this occasion, that pretty much remains the same. If you had asked me that question as a member of the task force, I would have said it's an interesting academic exercise, but one so highly politically and, I would suspect, practically unlikely under current terms as to be easily dismissible.
DOBBINS: Can I just— I was just going to say, I mean, it may be that there are a large number of people who are skeptical about the possibility of transforming complex societies. If so, there weren't any on our task force. On the other hand, there was no underestimation of how difficult it was going to be, and some recognition that at this stage we're certainly not assured of success.
SCHLESINGER: Disengagement was not considered. Disengagement now would be tantamount now to American failure.
MODERATOR: All the way in the back.
QUESTIONER: My name is Mark— [inaudible]. I had a question about the June 30th date. I'm wondering, in your report you suggest that the date seems to be locked in concrete. That date was made here in Washington, not in Iraq. Given the fact that the Iraqi people themselves don't know exactly what the form of the transitional government will look like, why is the report so emphatic about holding to that date?
SCHLESINGER: [To Mr. Pickering.] I think you were in charge of transition. [Laughter.]
PICKERING: It's a good question. I believe, in fact, that the report was not more questioning of that date because we felt on the one hand that further transition to further Iraqi involvement in their own future was an extremely important and significant idea. Secondly, as with many of the other factors that we took into account— and, as I said a moment ago in response to the earlier question about full disengagement— we didn't seek to argue circumstances that had already been set in place, but rather comment upon them, and work with them or around them to the greatest extent possible.
The report, in effect, has made it very clear that this is a terribly taxing and very difficult task and, in itself, may be subject, obviously, to a lot of circumstances which could upset it. But we did not specifically reargue the June 30th date for any specific later time. Certainly no one I talked to in the report had suggested an earlier time would be at all feasible. We, I think, continue to have grave doubts about many of the circumstances that will have to be put in place. And, as you know, over the weekend the transitional administration law now leaves open a time for its own perfecting in connection precisely with the huge and very difficult task of finding a way to put into place the interim government that is supposed to succeed to authority and sovereignty following June 30th and the demise of the CPA.
SCHLESINGER: The credibility of the transition process is, of course, something that we must protect, and it is affected if we fail to meet dates. The U.N. fact-finding mission, which reported on the 23rd of February, states: "Virtually every Iraqi with whom the commission met stressed that the date of 30 June, 2004, for the transfer of sovereignty is a deadline that must be respected," end of quote. "The task force shares this view as the transfer of a sovereignty has taken on profound political importance among the Iraqis, and it need not suggest any diminished U.S. commitment to engagement in post-war reconstruction and public security efforts." Page 33 of the report.
MODERATOR: That's a pretty direct answer. Next question? Don Oberdorfer.
QUESTIONER: Don Oberdorfer. I don't have any quarrel with direction or actually what's said in the report. But I'm not sure that it depicts the real world. In my view, after June 30th and the turnover of sovereignty, the American public interest in this is going to go back to the bottom in the newspapers, which is what I think the administration is counting on. And over the longer run, maybe not before November, but sometime soon, the political interest is probably going to slip away from it. We have the Vietnam experience to look at with that. If that's the case— and I think it's the case— the American public is going to have to be told something much more important than a diminution of American prestige and credibility to continue to back a big, expensive operation in Iraq. So, you know, you've got to think of something to convince the public that this is really worthwhile. Otherwise I think it's not what you think is going to happen. I think something very different is likely to happen. So I'd be happy to have any comment on— [inaudible].
MODERATOR: I think there was a question in there.
SCHLESINGER: There was a question in there. [Laughter.] My first comment is that the Vietnam syndrome may have died out elsewhere, but it is alive and well in the American press. [Laughter.] I think that what we see is a sharp difference between the events in recent years and the events back in Vietnam. 9/11 got the attention of the American people. In fact, we have a current debate going on about whether or not it has been too much exploited in recent political advertisements. And I think the American people recognize that terrorism is a problem that will extend for many years, and that we will have to continue to be attentive to it. The American public never had that same feeling about the importance of Vietnam. It is essential that all of our leadership, and our organs of communication, continue to stress the importance of the United States fulfilling this particular element of its foreign policy if its influence in the world and the image of the United States is to be sustained.
MODERATOR: Tom and then—
PICKERING: I'd like to add too to Jim's statement that, Don, there will be significant numbers of American troops— we don't know how many under what particular circumstance— for some considerable period of time. That differs from Vietnam when all troops were out, when particularly the circumstances you relate played a major role in U.S. attitudes towards a change in Vietnam. You may say, "Well, that will only happen later," and maybe that will indeed be the case. But that is not the intention or the plans. And, secondly, the task force, I think, was very conscious of this. It's conscious, in fact, of what we feared from the very beginning: that there would be somewhat of an ephemeral and low-level commitment to this particular activity. There was a lack of concern, if you could put it that way, in the earlier report days about funding. Funding has now taken place. I'm not sure I consider that totally adequate for the long term. It's funding for 2004. We don't know what will happen in 2005. But a central tenet of the report, indeed the first principle of the report, is stay the course and keep the commitment. And I believe that grew out of, in part, some of the concerns you expressed, and reflects the views, I think, of all of us on the task force.
MODERATOR: Jim Dobbins.
DOBBINS: I'd just say two things in response to that. You may turn out to be right. But all one can say at the moment is that the task force is a pretty diverse group; and they all joined unanimously in the recommendations that you see before you, which would tend to go in the opposite direction. Secondly, insofar as one can see in terms of our upcoming presidential campaign, the Democrats and Republicans are going to compete with each other in promising to stay the course in Iraq. You're not going to see on that fundamental issue, the issue raised in the report here for continued commitment, much divergence. Now, a year from now, if we're not being successful, that could be reviewed. But for the moment, the degree of bipartisan consensus on this point is pretty strong.
SCHLESINGER: We have been in Iraq for a year. We stayed in Vietnam, with forces, for 10 years. It was not until three years out, in particular the  Tet offensive, which was a great psychological victory for the VC [Viet Cong] and the North Vietnamese, even though the VC was essentially destroyed in that process— that was three years out. It was only then that the American public by and large turned against the war. We are one year into this operation. As we say in this report, there has been substantial progress in recent months. We trust that that progress will continue. And at least speaking for myself— and, I think, for the others— we believe that the American public will continue to support this commitment of American policy and power.
DOBBINS: Last point on this. The report does say, however, that public support is broader than it is deep, which tends to substantiate your, at least, concerns that it may not last.
MODERATOR: We have side-by-side questioners over here on the left side of the room. Why don't we take both of those questions together.
QUESTIONER: Steve Flanagan, National Defense University. This is a question probably for Ambassador Dobbins. The report notes that the European NATO allies could probably pick up a larger role in training and supporting, particularly in the civil police area, and probably also constabulary. But it does also talk about a wider NATO role. And I wonder what the discussion was like in the context of the NATO allies. Whether, for political reasons, or real concerns of readiness, or having trouble meeting commitments in Afghanistan right now, to expand the provisional reconstruction teams there, and whether or not there was a general sense that NATO should take over the Polish sector of the multinational division there as a whole and be part of a broader coalition force.
MODERATOR: Let's get the question of your colleague next to you.
QUESTIONER: Margaret Daly Hayes, also of National Defense University. One of the points that you mention is the importance of institution-building and leaving in place institutions that are capable of sustaining a positive effort. What mechanisms do you have in mind to assure that an Iraqi government is able to implement effective policies over time? For example, you suggest that in the oil area we should ensure transparency, professional management, independent audits, et cetera. How does one assure that those procedures will be sustained? I think this is one of our weak areas of our transition planning in a number of areas.
MODERATOR: Who would like to start? Jim, do you want to be the first?
DOBBINS: On the NATO role, there wasn't discussion in detail in the task force about how the NATO role might be enhanced. I think one has to be realistic about the degree to which NATO allies are likely to pick up a substantially large proportion of the responsibility in Iraq, and how quickly that can be done given competing demands in both the Balkans and Afghanistan, and the fact that the divergences between the United States and its principal continental partners have still only partly been bridged. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a realistic chance that NATO would take over responsibility for commanding and manning the Polish sector; and that that would be a start, if one could bring in a significant number of European and other international police into that sector and begin demonstrating how a multinational presence could work. I think it might set a pattern which, over time, could be replicated in the rest of the country. But I think the prospects for NATO moving into this operation are probably more likely to be incremental than all at once.
PICKERING: On the institution-building, I think it's an extremely important question and a serious one. We didn't delve into this in extensive detail. I think the model suggested of oil is potentially replicable in other areas, particularly if you continue to assume that large-scale U.S. presence and assistance is going to be there, both in the security area and in the area of financing institutional change or institutional preservation, if you want to call it that— as well as the wide range of other reconstruction, rebuilding, rehabilitation activities that will continue to have to be undertaken. There is no magic about June 30th with respect to what are the requirements before or after. And so I think those will play a role. Obviously it will depend upon the capabilities of that embassy and its leadership, and that will be very, very important in the days ahead, but it will have, at least, some significant tools to do the job as it moves ahead. And I would suspect, like a lot of other places, it will find differences of view that are not going to be easily resolved, but that in general will have, I think, sufficient persuasive capacity as well as sufficient inducements to keep the process moving in a reasonable way. Hence the notion of staying the course.
SCHLESINGER: Your question as to how do we guarantee— there is no way we can guarantee it over time. But all we can do is to see if we can start a correct course, as we suggest with the oil industry, and hope for the best. The United States has, over the course of the last century, been engaged in many parts of the world, and has established all sorts of institutions, some of which were not successful over time.
QUESTIONER: Sharon Behn, The Washington Times. I'd like to ask how you see the balance between the U.S. military authority in Iraq after June 30th, and the civilian authority represented by an extended Iraqi council, some of whose members have their own militias. How are they going to balance the different power structures in Iraq? And how much authority do you believe the Iraqis will have over the U.S. military in the role that they're going to play?
SCHLESINGER: I would think a very limited authority over the role of the U.S. military. [Laughter.] They can make their suggestions to the embassy, and perhaps have those suggestions taken seriously and be urged upon the U.S. military. But the U.S. military is going to have its own serious responsibilities, largely in the area of providing protection against the hypothetical foreign intrusion, to provide the back-up fire power in the event that there is a serious, serious insurgent incident and, most of all, be engaged in the training and partnering with Iraqi security forces, so that those security forces gradually develop the confidence, the high morale, that they can deal with terrorist incidents. But there will not be direct control of U.S. military stemming from the Iraqis.
QUESTIONER: So their sovereignty is therefore very limited?
QUESTIONER: Their sovereignty will therefore be limited?
SCHLESINGER: Their sovereignty will be limited. I believe that we hope to have a status-of-forces agreement before the 30th of June in place, and that would, needless to say, establish the legal basis, institutional basis, for the presence of American forces.
MODERATOR: Jim, and then Tom.
DOBBINS: Well, I'd say, first of all, that the transition from American to Iraqi lead in provision of security is going to be a gradual one that will take place as the Iraqis actually develop the capacity for providing security for their own citizens, rather than an artificial one set by a specific date. Nevertheless, it's clearly the intention of the U.S. to promote this transition as quickly as possible. And indeed one of the report's recommendations is that they not move too quickly in moving out of the cities and moving away from areas where their continued presence may be necessary. I suspect that U.S. forces and coalition forces will operate in Iraq under the context of a [United Nations] Security Council resolution, which will provide them a mandate to continue to support the Iraqi government and provide security in the country, and that that will be the legal basis for their activities. And I would say that the Iraqi government in that respect will be in the same position as other sovereign governments in areas where the U.N. is conducting peacekeeping activities. There are dozens of countries in which either U.S. or U.N. forces are operating under the context of Security Council resolutions, in cooperation with local governments. But there's no doubt that the international community enjoys certain aspects of immunity and authority deriving from its international role, which are perfectly compatible with local sovereignty, but which are nevertheless important and distinct.
PICKERING: I would just add, too, if I read the press correctly, there is a principle in the transition law that says militias will be federalized. Now, that may be a principle that will take some time to implement, but it's a principle that tilts, if I can put it this way, in the right direction, and gets at the heart of your original question, which appeared to focus on the issue of whether there would be independent militias that would create internal difficulties for the Iraqis themselves. And I think that's also there. I think it would be obviously a serious concern to everybody, including the U.S. And that's the reason why I believe in fact there is apparently a provision already in place, if I could put it again, to federalize the militias in the Iraqi context.
MODERATOR: All the way in the back, please.
QUESTIONER: Jim Loeb, Interpress Service. Is that who you meant?
MODERATOR: Fine. Go.
QUESTIONER: OK. [Laughs.] Just to follow up on the last questions regarding status of forces and U.S. military in Iraq, did the task force at all address the desirability or non-desirability of a lengthy U.S. presence, like, I don't know, a semi-permanent base or anything like that in Iraq, say, beyond 10 years out?
MODERATOR: Let me take a question from Walt Slocombe as well, who is right next door. There you go. Thank you.
QUESTIONER: Walt Slocombe. One of the characteristics of the CPA that I think people don't understand is that it is genuinely a coalition operation, in which significant positions are held by non-U.S. citizens. Did the task force address the issue of how to retain that approach when the transition is made to an embassy? There is some implication that it should be handed over to the U.N., and is that what you intend?
PICKERING: Yeah, Walt, I think you answered your own question as far as we considered that issue. And it was not a question that was highlighted for us. But you have— and I think it's an important point that, obviously, throughout the report runs the theme of broad U.N. involvement, multinational participation, an effort to, in effect, provide a kind of coalition-like approach to the critical answers, not just in security, but across the board. The first question on the 10 years, I think the answer is no.
SCHLESINGER: We will play it depending upon what emerges over the course of the next few years and see what happens. But there is something that I should like to stress. There is no eagerness, except on the part of the hard-core opposition, for a withdrawal of U.S. forces, as we cite in the report. When [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld announced a drawdown of 30,000 U.S. troops, it caused, quote, a virtual panic among many Iraqis that the United States intended to withdraw entirely. There is an eagerness for the continued presence of American forces. It is not that there is any substantial desire to see them suddenly leave.
DOBBINS: Let me just— on the 10 years, I expect the Council [on Foreign Relations] will reconvene the task force sometime in the next decade to look at that again— [laughter]--so stand by.
On your question, Walt— I mean, I think it's a good question which we did not address, which is, how do you maintain unity of purpose among a broad and diverse coalition once the instrumentalities for that are gone on the civil side? They'll still be there on the military side, and indeed they might be beefed up with more multinational participation at the command levels in CJTF-7 [Command Joint Task Force 7]. But on the civil side, something needs to replace the CPA. The U.N. isn't itself a coalition. It is an instrument through which a coalition can act, assuming the coalition is broad enough. But you still need to build and maintain that consensus. In the Balkans we used things like the Quint [Five-nation diplomatic council], the Contact Group, the Peace Implementation Council, to create structures through which consensus could be built over time. And something like that needs to be done in Iraq that has a sense of— set of concentric circles through which the United States can build a consensus, and unity and purpose in carrying this forward, using the United Nations, NATO and other international organizations as instrumentalities of that consensus.
MODERATOR: OK, we have time for one final question. And we'll also use that as an opportunity for the panelists to offer any parting shots. Yes?
QUESTIONER: We are in a presidential—
MODERATOR: Who are you?
QUESTIONER: I'm Charlie Curtis, and we are in a presidential election process, and out of concern that your report will be seen through that prism, I wanted to ask two related questions.
MODERATOR: Briefly, please.
QUESTIONER: You make the point that the leadership, the putative Democratic nominee, leaders in Congress, and the president make it clear that they will stay the course and make the operation a success, as Ambassador Dobbins pointed out that at least [Democratic presidential candidate] Senator [John] Kerry has already said that. I want to give you an opportunity to at least make clear that there isn't a negative pregnant in your recommendation that there is some failure to do that. Secondly, you make the point that the various leaders should outline the magnitude of the resource required. The administration has said they are not prepared to do that until after the election. Are you recommending they do it before the election?
MODERATOR: I think, appropriately, we're ending on a political note. Why don't we go in reverse order— Jim Dobbins, Tom Pickering, and Jim Schlesinger.
DOBBINS: I'll pass on that.
PICKERING: On the negative pregnant, I don't think so. It was certainly a part of our first report that was addressed to a world in which there was no Democratic candidate, and I think it remains so. I think the question of outlining the course requirements is a legitimate one. It's a question that obviously has been taken care of for 2004. But, as I pointed out, it needs to be taken care of for 2005, and I hope that it is.
SCHLESINGER: The 18.6 billion [dollars] is a substantial sum that was intended not to be spent in a single budget year, so it will be spent out over time. I might make the point that for many Iraqis they too have the attitude of, "it's the economy, stupid." And there is a high level of unemployment. And a great deal of the restlessness within the country has come from that level of unemployment. We have been relatively slow in getting the $18.6 billion actually beginning to move into the economy. As it begins to move, it should pick up the level of employment and thus begin to reduce the restlessness. As we look out, I think that you are talking about much lower figures in the budget out— years than $18.6— probably significantly less than 10 billion [dollars].
MODERATOR: OK, with that I want to thank Eric Schwartz, our project consultant, again for his heroic efforts, as well as our panelists, and thank all of you for being here. [Applause.]
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