Accessibility links

Breaking News

Iraq Study Group Ready to Release Recommendations

The bi-partisan Iraq Study Group is scheduled to release its findings Wednesday, and news reports say the panel will recommend withdrawing nearly all U.S. combat units from Iraq by early 2008. Middle East analysts say the report will stimulate the growing debate about the Bush administration's Iraq policies and could, as VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports from Washington, lead to substantial changes in military strategy.

Many of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group have been leaked to news media in the United States. Numerous reports say the commission will recommend major changes in the U.S. military's campaign in Iraq.

Reports say the proposal to pull out virtually all combat brigades by early 2008 is more a goal than a timetable, because U.S. military commanders in Iraq would decide if circumstances on the battlefield could allow such a move.

The panel, which is co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, is reportedly recommending a shift in the U.S. mission in Iraq from combat to a support role.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq David Newton, now an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute, says the report will encourage a robust debate on U.S. policy in Iraq.

"It has created probably too many expectations." he said. "But what is useful, I think, is that it really has stimulated this growing debate in the United States that the current policies - it is not a question of not working well enough, it is a question of not working period."

Reports say the plan recommends embedding more U.S. soldiers with Iraqi military units and substantially increasing the number of troops involved in the training of Iraqi forces.

Ambassador Newton says the time has come to turn over security responsibilities to the Iraqi government.

He said, "It seems to me that we cannot, at least politically, sustain the casualties every day that we are suffering in a war that now seems to have no purpose, I think, to the American people."

"Therefore, I think we do have to try to get our troops away from direct combat and see if we can train the Iraqis and motivate them," he added.

President Bush, speaking last week in Jordan after meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, says it is important to accelerate the training of Iraqi soldiers.

Mr. Bush says U.S. troops will stay in Iraq until their mission is complete.

"I know there is a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there is going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq," he said. "We are going to stay in Iraq to get the job done so long as the government wants us there."

In addition to the Iraq Study Group, the Bush administration and the Pentagon have initiated separate policy reviews on Iraq.

In recent days administration officials, such as National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, have signaled the president is weighing options for a new strategy in Iraq.

He said. "Things are not proceeding well enough or fast enough in Iraq. We have to make some changes. We need a new way forward in Iraq and that is what this policy review is all about."

Danielle Pletka, the vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, says it will be difficult for U.S. political leaders to reach complete agreement on a new direction for Iraq policy.

Pletka says that is because there are no obvious solutions to ending the violence.

She said, "What we have been doing up to now has not worked. Do we put in more troops? Do we put benchmarks in? Do we talk to our enemies?"

"None of these are the silver bullet [perfect solution] that one might hope for, and because they are not it is going to be hard to rally a bi-partisan group around any set of ideas," she continued.

Pletka believes that while President Bush is willing to consider changes in Iraq policy, he will not pull substantial numbers of American troops out of the country anytime soon.

She said, "You can either run away, admitting that we, the world's greatest superpower, are a failure, or we can seek to prevail and then depart when, in fact, we have prevailed."

"I think that the president certainly remains in the camp seeking to prevail. Whether or not he will stay in that camp for the coming months is not clear to anybody," she added.

The study group is also expected to recommend an aggressive diplomatic initiative in the Middle East, including engagement with Iran and Syria, a move that has been rejected by the Bush administration.

President Bush says U.S. soldiers will stay in Iraq until the government in Baghdad can rule the country, defend itself, and provide security and stability for all Iraqis.