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Obama's Pledge: A Responsible End to War in Iraq?

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Obama's Pledge: A Responsible End to War in Iraq?

by Bob Tollast

Download the Full Article: Obama's Pledge: A Responsible End to War in Iraq?

At the beginning of May, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan presented CWC report 4 to Congress, detailing the forthcoming State Department mission in Iraq. It lays bare the challenges in what will be an historic mission, in uncharted waters. It also raises serious questions about Obama's pledge to bring the war to a responsible end, and whether this will be fully resourced.

With Operation New Dawn coming to an end, two security firms, Triple Canopy and Global Strategies Group are already approved to provide over 5,500 contractors to support the biggest State Department Mission in history, joining 6 other firms- a current total of 10 billion dollars' worth of security contracts. The CWC report however, highlights the tight budgetary restrictions the mission will have to operate under. Since then, the Jaish Al Mahdi has been all but re-activated, raising the unwelcome spectre of widespread, renewed Shia violence. This is against a backdrop of a horrific spike in American casualties, with Leon Pannetta only being the latest to indict Iranian involvement. The recent ISF offensive against Special Groups- and possibly JAM itself in the JAM stronghold of Maysan, has so far shown indeterminate results.

At stake now are America's military, economic and growing cultural exchanges with Iraq- in short, everything that has been achieved so far and the very future of Iraq itself. The viability of this civilian led mission depends perilously on assuming a continued status quo. Yet the past few months have seen a sharp increase in violence against Americans. If his recent announcement to the B.B.C Arabic service is anything to go by, Moqtada Al Sadr is explicitly claiming credit for these attacks.

Iraq certainly has a lot in the running that could yet make it a peaceful, prosperous place. Numerous oil funded reconstruction projects will be underway this year and the IMF recently forecast Iraq's oil fueled economic growth could rival the rate of China's expansion. But funding depends largely on fragile oil infrastructure, with major pipelines and refineries in the volatile Kirkuk region. Iraq's involvement in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, an international scheme to combat oil and gas related corruption, has yet to show results.

While the majority of oil projects are in Southern Iraq where security incidents are low overall, the situation is tenuous. The current attacks against U.S forces mean foreign civilian interests in Iraq will have to hope this is not a sign of things to come. While many nations are opening consulates across Iraq, none have the interests at stake that America does. As the CWC report emphasizes

Given that Congress has appropriated more than $1 trillion for U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001, the prospect of jeopardizing the gains in Iraq and U.S. interests in the region to save a small fraction of that sum looks like false economy indeed.

Download the Full Article: Obama's Pledge: A Responsible End to War in Iraq?

Robert Tollast is an English Literature Graduate from Royal Holloway University of London, and he is a periodic contributor to Small Wars Journal.

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Fri, 07/29/2011 - 6:18am


I've seen the recent developments. Maliki is still either unwilling or unable to reign in the more extreme Shia influence in his coalition.

If he doesn't take serious action against them, then the U.S should tell him in the clearest terms: You can't have open ended assistance, especially military, if the Special Groups keep getting a slap on the wrist and pro western players in the Iraqi Gov/ Military are ending up in jail on false corruption charges.

It has to be a real threat or we are basically going to end up with Pakistan: The Sequel. And unfortunately a lot of this is already sounding like the same questions all over again, namely, "whose side are you on?!"

But like in Pakistan the answer is complicated: rather than a "friendly" government aiding and abetting terrorists, we are dealing with a government where segments tolerate extremism, forcing a the others to pay lip service to fighting.

Maliki's government will find appeasing the Special Groups is like feeding the crocodile hoping that it eats them last, just as many Pakistani politicians now realise that the Taliban weren't just going to stay harmlessly in Waziristan...


Thu, 07/28/2011 - 6:57pm


A couple of points...

Firstly, I neglected to mention kata'ib hezbollah as one of the more fringe Shia groups that have been behind recent violence. Nor did I touch on Kirkuk, although the situation is seemingly "stable" there right now.

Secondly,since this article was written, there appears to have been a dip in violence. Has the Maysan operation yielded effective results?
Also, the apparent arrest of an Al Qaeda assassination cell in Baghdad is encouraging.

And two days ago, AQI issued a desperate on-line plea for funds, while debate raged in Iran over the wisdom of supporting "Special Groups."

My point? Let's not jump ship just yet. It doesn't have to cost another half trillion dollars.

There have also been some notable prosecutions and uncovering of corruption recently - Hopefully the abolishment of Article 136 B of the Iraqi criminal code in april is the reason for this. If so, it will be an Iraqi led success.

There is no question that the ISF are improving. Perhaps State Department really can assist in improving Iraqi rule of law (the DoS effort so far has had hugely mixed results from lamentable to commendable)

If we can still assist the Iraqis (we can, and still do) and if for example, the Green Berets have been a factor in the recent southern Iraq operations (which I believe is correct) then in regards to Motorfireboxs' point: We CAN fix countries in the middle east. But as time goes by, the ratio that THEY have to fix increases.

I believe in the end there is a sustainable way we can continue to help the Iraq project. Perhaps SF and INTEL assistance will be a big component, as well as continued assistance to the GOI. It doesn't have to involve a division of troops, or "militarism run amok" as Gian Gentile recently said.

Now, if we can find that way, I think it would make sense to pursue it with vigour: not until we see our "mission accomplished" moment, but to the point where we watch them find that for themselves.

ps... on another note, foreign investment in Iraq this year is predicted to hit the equivalent of around 90 billion US dollars.

I wonder what it would be if Saddam were still in power...

motorfirebox (not verified)

Thu, 07/28/2011 - 6:25am

I think the most important step is deciding where our responsibility ends. Iraq was plagued by violence even under the rule of a regime that was more than happy to gas its own citizens on the theory that the peace of the grave is still peace. At some point, we have to recognize that a large portion of the violence in the region is inherent to the region--not something we can "fix".

To the extent that we ever had any responsibilities in Iraq, they were discharged years ago.