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- Victory is still an option in Iraq. America, a country of 300
million people with a GDP of $12 trillion, and more than 1 million
soldiers and marines can regain control of Iraq, a state the size of
California with a population of 25 million and a GDP under $100
Victory in Iraq is vital to America’s security. Defeat will lead to
regional conflict, humanitarian catastrophe, and increased global
Iraq has reached a critical point. The strategy of relying on a
political process to eliminate the insurgency has failed. Rising sectarian
violence threatens to break America’s will to fight. This violence will
destroy the Iraqi government, armed forces, and people if it is not
Victory in Iraq is still possible at an acceptable level of effort. We
must adopt a new approach to the war and implement it quickly and
Three courses of action have been proposed. All will fail.
- Withdraw immediately. This approach will lead to immediate defeat.
The Iraqi Security Forces are entirely dependent upon American support
to survive and function. If U.S. forces withdraw now, they will
collapse and Iraq will descend into total civil war that will rapidly
spread throughout the region.
- Engage Iraq’s neighbors. This approach will fail. The basic causes
of violence and sources of manpower and resources for the warring
sides come from within Iraq. Iraq’s neighbors are encouraging the
violence, but they cannot stop it.
- Increase embedded trainers dramatically. This approach cannot
succeed rapidly enough to prevent defeat. Removing U.S. forces from
patrolling neighborhoods to embed them as trainers will lead to an
immediate rise in violence. This rise in violence will destroy
America’s remaining will to fight, and escalate the cycle of sectarian
violence in Iraq beyond anything an Iraqi army could bring under
We must act now to restore security and stability to Baghdad. We and
the enemy have identified it as the decisive point.
There is a way to do this.
- We must change our focus from training Iraqi soldiers to securing
the Iraqi population and containing the rising violence. Securing the
population has never been the primary mission of the U.S. military
effort in Iraq, and now it must become the first priority.
- We must send more American combat forces into Iraq and especially
into Baghdad to support this operation. A surge of seven Army brigades
and Marine regiments to support clear-and-hold operations starting in
the spring of 2007 is necessary, possible, and will be sufficient.
- These forces, partnered with Iraqi units, will clear critical
Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shi’a neighborhoods, primarily on the west side
of the city.
- After the neighborhoods have been cleared, U.S. soldiers and
Marines, again partnered with Iraqis, will remain behind to maintain
- As security is established, reconstruction aid will help to
reestablish normal life and, working through Iraqi officials, will
strengthen Iraqi local government.
This approach requires a national commitment to victory in Iraq:
- The ground forces must accept longer tours for several years.
National Guard units will have to accept increased deployments during
- Equipment shortages must be overcome by transferring equipment
from non-deploying active duty, National Guard, and reserve units to
those about to deploy. Military industry must be mobilized to provide
replacement equipment sets urgently.
- The president must request a dramatic increase in reconstruction
aid for Iraq. Responsibility and accountability for reconstruction
must be assigned to established agencies. The president must insist
upon the completion of reconstruction projects. The president should
also request a dramatic increase in CERP funds.
- The president must request a substantial increase in ground forces
end strength. This increase is vital to sustaining the morale of the
combat forces by ensuring that relief is on the way. The president
must issue a personal call for young Americans to volunteer to fight
in the decisive conflict of this age.
Failure in Iraq today will require far greater sacrifices tomorrow in
far more desperate circumstances.
Committing to victory now will demonstrate America’s strength to our
friends and enemies around the world.
Frederick W. Kagan is a resident scholar at AEI.
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