05:07 PDA Bulletin -- 400 Days and Out of Iraq
- "400 days and out: A strategy for resolving the Iraq impasse"
Project on Defense Alternatives Briefing Memo #34, 19 July 2005.
The United States could safely withdraw almost all its forces from
Iraq in a little over a year without further destabilizing the
country. Progress toward that end requires a significant political
compromise with the Sunni community and with Iraq's neighbors,
The new proposal, entitled "400 days and out," follows an earlier PDA
report, "Vicious Circle"
< http://www.comw.org/pda/0505rm10exsum.html >,
which found that US military operations in Iraq were generating
substantial support for the insurgency.
In recent months, the idea that the Iraq occupation has become
counter-productive has inspired several US congresspersons to offer
withdrawal proposals. The PDA proposal goes a step further to address
the "withdrawal dilemma:"
Although essential, troop withdrawal will not defuse the insurgency
entirely. Some elements will fight on. Also, the conflict has gained
an inter-communal aspect, Sunni versus Shia, which may persist or
grow worse. Finally, the immediate positive impact of announcing a
withdrawal time-line may not prove sufficient to allow a major shift
of resources to the training of Iraqi security forces, which every
withdrawal proposal views as key. So how do we create the
initial "strategic space" to begin withdrawing troops confidently,
while also shifting resources to training? This is the dilemma. The
challenge is to "jump start" the de-escalation process.
The answer according to the PDA proposal is to seek political
compromise with the Sunni community at all levels and with Iraq's
neighbors -- especially Syria and Iran. The aim would be to
immediately reduce both active and passive support for the
insurgency, both inside and outside the country.
The necessary concessions would be a return to local governance in
Sunni areas, a guaranteed level of representation for all provinces
in the national assembly, an end to broad-brush measures of de-
Baathification, an amnesty for most indigenous insurgents and for
most former Baathists, and a de-escalation of the US confrontation
with Syria and Iran. These political measures would be mated with a
troop withdrawal time-line and some initial withdrawals.
The proposal sees Iran's cooperation as especially important to
gaining the assent of the Jaafari government. It views Syria and
Saudi Arabia as similarly important with regard to the Sunni
"These policy changes are not contrary to the mission goals of
achieving stability, democracy, and security in Iraq," argues author
Carl Conetta, "and they would allow withdrawal, training, and
reconstruction to proceed." The 400-day withdrawal timeline that PDA
proposes is pegged to Iraqi troop training cycles. After 1 September
2006, a relatively small international military force would remain
inside Iraq for monitoring and training purposes, under NATO command
and UN auspices.
The report also includes an appended bibliography on the Iraq
insurgency -- http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/0507Iraq-bib.pdf
Author comment on the "secret UK troop withdrawal memo":
The PDA proposal comes just one week after the leak of a secret memo
signed by UK Defense Minister John Reid
disclosing an option to withdraw 100,000 troops from Iraq by mid-
2006. The author of the PDA proposal, Carl Conetta, sees little hope
for progress in the UK memo, however. "It describes a contingency
plan -- nothing more -- and it fails to specify how the plan might be
achieved," said Conetta. "Pentagon planning apparently assumes,
against all evidence, that continuing on the present course will
eventually lead to improved conditions," he said. Conetta speculates
that the leaking of the memo is most likely a public relations
maneuver meant to mollify critics. "The Administration plan offers a
pocket-full of conditionals," he asserts, "but lacks what the process
most needs: bold new steps -- including some initial withdrawals
The Desfense Strategy Review Page has been updated as of 20 July
2005. There will be several additional updates this year as the
Pentagon proceeds with its Quadrennial Defense Review process.