Pullout Plan? Big Wheels Just Keep Spinning.


New reports on Iraq confirm previous reports. Further reports coming. The best report, by Larry Korb, goes unreported.

Cheney’s current plan for pulling troops out of Iraq.

While we’re waiting for the Petraeus report — which will be written by the White House, as previously buried in an L.A. Times story — the press is playing up a new report to Congress that says the Iraqi national police force (its army, kind of) won’t be ready to handle the chaos until later this century.

But that’s old news. The freshest report wasn’t commissioned by Congress or the White House or the Pentagon. And it didn’t have anything to do with the Senate Democrats trying to “reframe” the “Iraq debate,” as the New York Times put it in a detailed story yesterday about that irrelevant bluster.

The most dynamic and relevant report comes from Larry Korb, a high-ranking Defense official under Ronald Reagan, and it’s going unreported. Now a senior fellow at the progressive think tank Center for American Progress, Korb released on August 27 an actual plan for pulling out of Iraq. Read “How to Redeploy: Implementing a Responsible Drawdown of U.S. Forces from Iraq” or listen to Korb talk about it, or do both.

More than a week after its release by the mainstream and highly visible think tank, Korb’s report hasn’t even hit the news pages and has gotten only a little play on op-ed pages. But it’s detailed and realistic, compared with all the other pullout plans — of which there are none, except for the Bush-Cheney regime’s current strategy, pictured above.

Seriously, Korb’s plan is pretty damn good reading, and it comes from someone who’s no flaming liberal pinko. But, then, veteran Iraq watcher Tony Cordesman‘s reports have been consistently ignored since before the 2003 invasion.

Here’s what Korb’s report says:

It is time to stop recklessly extending our military presence in Iraq and regain control of our national security by redeploying our forces out of Iraq in an orderly and safe manner.

Yet there remains significant disagreement and confusion concerning the time necessary to withdraw all U.S. military forces from Iraq. The debate has gravitated back and forth between those arguing that there must be either a rapid, precipitous withdrawal or a long, drawn-out redeployment. Further clouding the issue are those who support an extended redeployment over several years simply in order to “stay the course” in Iraq, and as a result cherry-pick logistical issues to make the case for an extended U.S. presence.

Deciding between a swift or extended redeployment, however, is a false dilemma. While both options are logistically feasible, this report will demonstrate that an orderly and safe withdrawal is best achieved over a 10- to 12-month period. Written in consultation with military planners and logistics experts, this report is not intended to serve as a playbook for our military planners but rather as a guide to policymakers and the general public about what is realistically achievable. A massive, yet safe and orderly redeployment of U.S. forces, equipment, and support personnel is surely daunting — but it is well within the exceptional logistical capabilities of the U.S. military. …

A phased military redeployment from Iraq over the next 10 to 12 months would begin extracting U.S. troops from Iraq’s internal conflicts immediately and would be completed by the end of 2008.

That’s nice, but how do we do it?

The most effective strategy for removing American troops from Iraq involves gradually withdrawing troops from the outer geographic sectors of Iraq first, with the goal of reducing our military footprint and consolidating our presence before our final departure.

A phased consolidation approach would resemble a slower and more deliberate approach than an “invasion in reverse.” Units would move using a combination of their own ground transportation and intratheater air support. The American military footprint would shrink from the outside to the center, starting first with withdrawal from the most northern bases — excluding the 3rd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division and the 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne, which would redeploy from around Kirkuk and Tikrit north of Baghad to Iraq’s Kurdish region to support a temporary U.S. commitment to resolve outstanding Turkish-Kurd issues. The remaining units would then redeploy from the rest of northern Iraq followed by Diyala to the west and Anbar province to the east. Our forces would then be consolidated in Baghdad, from which they would withdraw until all American forces — save a temporary residual presence in Iraq’s Kurdish region — would eventually be gone (see map on page 5).

And not only maps. Korb and his collaborators lay out a detailed month-by-month schedule, division and brigade by division and brigade — which equipment to leave and which to take with us, and doing it all with the least danger to our troops and to the Iraqis who haven’t already fled their country.

Now that’s a report worth reading. Meanwhile, we’re deluged in the press with old news and report upon report upon report that say the same things and don’t offer solutions, except to “disband” or “start over.” Too late for that talk. Stuck in a bad place, our big wheels are spinning and not getting us or our troops anywhere.

Treating the latest of such reports as fresh, the Washington Post puts it this way this morning.

Iraq’s army, despite measurable progress, will be unable to take over internal security from U.S. forces in the next 12 to 18 months and “cannot yet meaningfully contribute to denying terrorists safe haven,” according to a report on the Iraqi security forces published today.

The report, prepared by a commission of retired senior U.S. military officers, describes the 25,000-member Iraqi national police force and the Interior Ministry, which controls it, as riddled with sectarianism and corruption. The ministry, it says, is “dysfunctional” and is “a ministry in name only.” The commission recommended that the national police force be disbanded.

Yes, but the New York Times broke that very report last week, saying:

An independent commission established by Congress to assess Iraq’s security forces will recommend remaking the 26,000-member national police force to purge it of corrupt officers and Shiite militants suspected of complicity in sectarian killings, administration and military officials said Thursday.

The Times played the breakdown of the police as a scoop, and the rest of the media followed right along. But that, too, was mostly old news.

Yet another report, way back on June 7, made the same points, as was reported at the time — or, rather, underreported.

That June report was, and is, readily available from the Pentagon. Check it out yourself (PDF). Its details are devastating, especially for a document just sitting there on the Pentagon website. For instance:

Militia infiltration of local police remains a significant problem. Prime Minister Maliki has expressed a commitment to retraining and reforming police units that are shown to be serving sectarian or parochial interests. Some security forces also remain prone to intimidation by, or collusion with, criminal gangs.

Even when police are not affiliated with a militia or organized crime, there is often mutual distrust between the police and the judiciary, each viewing the other as corrupt.

Corruption? Oh, brother. The details reported three months ago were staggering:

Corruption, illegal activity and sectarian/ militia influence constrain faster progress in developing MoI [Iraq’s Ministry of Interior, in effect its Pentagon] forces and gaining Iraqi populace support. Although the primary concern of the GoI [Government of Iraq] remains the ongoing insurgency, multiple allegations of tolerance of and influence exerted by Shi’a militia members within the MoI is troubling. Militia influence impacts every component of the MoI, particularly in Baghdad and several other key cities. The MoI also continues to struggle with internal corruption, and the ministry made continued efforts this quarter to address this problem. Key to these efforts is effective investigations when allegations appear to have some credibility. For example:

From January 1, 2007, through March 31, 2007, MoI Internal Affairs opened 1,954 new corruption-related investigations. The investigations resulted in the firing of 854 employees, the forced retirement of 13, referral to the Commission of Public Integrity of 16 for further investigation, and internal disciplinary action against 255. The other 816 cases remain open. The Internal Affairs Directorate conducted 41 human rights-related investigations. Of these, two resulted in disciplinary punishment and 39 remain open. …

And who knows how many instances have gone unreported and haven’t been investigated? That’s because even the investigators are deathly afraid:

The current security environment restricts the movement of criminal investigators (predominately Shi’a) in the MoI from traveling to crime scenes around Baghdad and other key cities to conduct investigations.

But the Pentagon’s June report went relatively unnoticed, maybe because of how it ended:

The Iraqi police and military forces continued to grow this quarter in fulfillment of the Prime Minister’s initiative. The ministries made some progress in developing capacity to manage these forces, in particular in taking ownership of basic training. Continued efforts will be required to build the capacity of the forces and the ministries to sustain themselves without Coalition support and to operate independently without the full range of Coalition combat enablers.

With such a bland summary of explosive facts, further fact-finding was clearly needed. You’d think enough facts have been found. But do we really need to point out that it’s always safer for politicians to either “reframe debates” or commission their own studies and reports than to listen to people like Korb and Cordesman and then hammer out hard decisions?