Election Year Politics Should Not Jeopardize U.S. Staying Power in Iraq; Bipartisan Pledge Needed to Reaffirm Commitment to Security and Reconstruction

Election Year Politics Should Not Jeopardize U.S. Staying Power in Iraq; Bipartisan Pledge Needed to Reaffirm Commitment to Security and Reconstruction

March 8, 2004 5:05 pm (EST)

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March 9, 2004 – A year after U.S. and coalition forces went to war with Iraq, American officials continue to face questions about U.S. determination to stay the course and to sustain a robust commitment to security and reconstruction in Iraq. With the transition to democracy in Iraq at a critical juncture, and with the American presidential election nearing, President Bush, presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry, and senior members of Congress must reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Iraq, concludes the Council-sponsored Independent Task Force on Post-Conflict Iraq, “Iraq: One Year After.”

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While noting “significant progress” in the post-conflict reconstruction and political transition effort, the Task Force reports that the planned transfer of sovereignty on June 30, combined with U.S. troop reductions from Iraqi cities and uncertainty about long-term U.S. funding, has created doubts about U.S. staying power. To avoid destabilizing the effort and demoralizing Iraqis, the Task Force urges the Bush administration, the Democratic nominee, and Congressional leaders to:

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  • declare that coalition forces will continue to provide essential security in Iraq until the Iraqi security forces can do so on their own;
  • emphasize that the transfer of sovereignty does not signal a diminished U.S. commitment to supporting stability, reconstruction and a peaceful political transition;
  • affirm that the United States is prepared to sustain a multi-billion dollar commitment to Iraq for at least the next several years; and
  • ensure broad involvement of Iraqis, and promote a leading role for the United Nations in the political transition process.

These are among the main findings of the Task Force, chaired by former Defense Secretary and Energy Secretary James R. Schlesinger and former U.N. Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering. The independent, nonpartisan Task Force includes a wide variety of regional, military and economic experts. (See list below.) This is the Task Force’s third report, each of which has focused on what the administration should do to ensure that battlefield victory in Iraq would not be lost by possible post-war failures.

The report stresses that security is critical for all of the coalition’s goals in Iraq, and that “coalition forces must continue to play a key role in creating safe and secure environments where reconstruction and political transitional activities can take place.” In addition to calling for a review of U.S. troop reductions from Iraqi cities, the Task Force recommends that the U.S. military:

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  • continue and accelerate their partnering with Iraqi forces;
  • link the pace of U.S. troop withdrawals to clear criteria that includes ongoing risks to civilians;
  • standardize security training efforts for Iraqis, increase resources for this objective, and recognize that training is a long-term exercise that should include a focus on institution-building; and
  • promote the recruitment of constabulary forces and civil police.

The Task Force also recommends that the administration take advantage of improved relations with the United Nations to promote a leading role for the U.N. in creating a transitional authority for Iraq to ensure “a more credible exercise that is accepted by most, if not all, important Iraqi actors.”

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This credibility is critical, the Task Force notes. If the United States is to help Iraqis “facilitate a political construct and process that has legitimacy, then the military challenges will be far more manageable. Conversely, if we do not skillfully address the politics, no amount of improved military measures will be able to quell unrest.”

According to the Task Force, U.N. involvement in the creation of a transitional authority will also expand the possibilities for U.N. assistance in other important areas, such as the administration of justice, human rights, and economic reconstruction.

The Task Force report contains a range of recommendations for enhancing the coalition’s effort to help Iraqis become more involved in the future management of their country. These include: increasing incentives for U.S. government service in Iraq; improving management of U.S. assistance efforts; moving quickly to structure the administration and staffing of a new U.S. embassy; promoting job creation; advancing the status of women; implementing a more effective public diplomacy effort; and ensuring transparent and accountable monitoring procedures for the oil industry.

James R. Schlesinger is the Chairman of the MITRE Corporation and a Senior Advisor at Lehman Brothers. He served several administrations in positions that included Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Energy and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Thomas R. Pickering is Senior Vice President, International Relations, at the Boeing Corporation. He completed a five-decade diplomatic career in December 2000 as Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., the Russian Federation, India, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria and Jordan.

Task Force project consultant Eric Schwartz is a former Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow, and directed the two prior Task Force studies. A former aide at the National Security Council, he coordinated this Task Force project while on leave from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, where he serves as Chief of the Executive Office.

Founded in 1921, the Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, national membership organization and a nonpartisan center for scholars dedicated to producing and disseminating ideas so that individual and corporate members, as well as policymakers, journalists, students, and interested citizens in the United States and other countries, can better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other governments.

Full text of the Council-sponsored Independent Task Force on Post-Conflict Iraq, “Iraq: One Year After”


J. Brian Atwood is Dean of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. He served as the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Clinton administration.

Kenneth H. Bacon is the President and CEO of Refugees International. Between 1994 and 2001, he served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and Pentagon spokesman.

Edward P. Djerejian is the Founding Director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. He served as the U.S. Ambassador to Syria and Israel and was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs between 1991 and 1993.

James F. Dobbins is the Director of RAND’s Center for International Security and Defense Policy. He was Ambassador to the European Community (1991-93), Special Assistant to the President for the Western Hemisphere (1996-99), and Assistant Secretary of State for Europe (2001-02). He served as the Clinton administration’s special envoy for Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and most recently as the Bush administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan.

Bart Friedman is a Senior Partner at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP and serves on the Brookings Institution’s Board of Trustees.

Carl S. Gershman has been the President of the National Endowment for Democracy since 1984.

John C. Hulsman is a Research Fellow in European Affairs at the Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage Foundation. He also served as a fellow in European Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and taught world politics and U.S foreign policy at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University. She served as U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN during the Reagan administration and was a member of President Reagan’s cabinet and National Security Council.

Ellen Laipson is President and CEO of the Henry L. Stimson Center. She worked on U.S. policy toward Iraq in the 1990s at the National Intelligence Council, the National Security Council, and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. She served as Vice-Chair of the National Intelligence Council from 1997 to 2002.

Tom Malinowski is the Washington Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch. Prior to joining Human Rights Watch, he was Senior Director for Foreign Policy Speechwriting at the National Security Council.

Robert A. Malley is the Director of the International Crisis Group’s Middle East Program. He was on the National Security Council staff from 1994 to 2001. He finished his tenure at the NSC as Special Assistant to the President for Arab-Israeli Affairs.

Phebe A. Marr is a leading specialist on Iraq and was a Senior Fellow at the National Defense University.

Edward L. Morse is Senior Executive Adviser at Hess Energy Trading.

Gregory S. Newbold is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. A retired Lieutenant General, he was formerly the Director of Operations on the Joint Staff.

James A. Placke is currently a Senior Associate at Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) and a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Previously, he was Director for Middle East Research at CERA.

John M. Shalikashvili is a Visiting Professor with the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. After the 1991 Gulf War, he commanded Operation Provide Comfort, the international mission that provided humanitarian assistance and protection to Kurds in northern Iraq. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1997, after serving as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Gordon R. Sullivan is the President and Chief Operating Officer of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA). He served as co-chair of the Commission on Post-Conflict Reconstruction, a joint project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and AUSA. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1995, after serving as the Army’s 32nd Chief of Staff.

F. J. Bing West is the President of the GAMA Corporation. He is also a former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and the co-author of “The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division,” published in 2003.

Frank G. Wisner is Vice Chairman of External Affairs, at American International Group. Ambassador Wisner has served in a number of senior positions in the U.S. government, including Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from 1993 to 1994 and Undersecretary of State for International Security Affairs from 1992 to 1993.

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