Hearing on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "Securing America's Interests in Iraq: The Remaining Options"
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): The committee will come to order. (Our witnesses ?) adjusted their schedules to accommodate us and unfortunately neither Senator Lugar or I have control over the Senate floor, nor do I want it. But I truly appreciate their indulgence. This afternoon we begin our examination of the various plans for securing our interests in Iraq.
We obviously heard from the plan this morning, the plan put forward by the president of the United States. And I appreciate the secretary coming to attempt to make the case for that plan. But as I said at the outset of these hearings, in announcing these hearings, the process here was to get a lie of the land, to get a historical perspective, an intelligence perspective which we did previous to today. And then begin with the secretary to hear the credible alternatives that have been offered, left, right and center, Republican, Democrat, Independent, think-tank and individual members of the Congress. For example, Jack Murtha at some point will come and testify as will, I suspect, former Speaker Gingrich.
And so, the whole idea here is for the public to understand what the various alternatives offered by serious people are, that are out there, so they understand there is not only a single alternative, either you do this or we, quote, "leave." Well that may be a plan as well. Today we'll hear from three starkly different but well informed proposals from thoughtful and very articulate witnesses. While each of them have very different ideas in how to proceed from this point out, they're united in their devotion to this country and the desire to see us through this difficult time.
We're going to begin today with Ambassador Peter Galbraith, Senior Diplomatic Fellow with the Center for Arms Control and Non- Proliferation. He's also, from our perspective and the perspective of the people sitting behind me, his greatest credential was he was a staff member on this committee. And a decade has gone by and we're delighted to have him back. Ambassador Galbraith argues that we should accept a partition of Iraq that has already take place, withdraw from Arab Iraq and re-deploy a small force in Kurdistan that can strike at al-Qaeda if necessary.
Next, we will hear from Dr. Frederick Kagan, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Dr. Kagan has authored a recent study that quote, "calls for a sustained surge of American combat forces into Iraq in order to restore and maintain stability and security in Baghdad, reduce sectarian violence, protect the Iraqi population, and help establish a normal life for the American people." I found it very interesting. I read the entire report and I am anxious to hear you expound on it.
We will then hear from Dr. Ted Galen Carpenter, the Vice President of Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the CATO Institute. Dr. Carpenter argues, and I quote, "The president should begin the process of removing American troops immediately and that process needs to be completed in no less than six months."
To state again for the record what is obvious, these are all very well-informed, and very bright and very patriotic Americans with three essentially, totally different views as to how to proceed from this point. And I'm confident that their testimony will help enlighten and inform the committee. I would now yield to my colleague, Chairman Lugar, if he wishes to make any opening statement.
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN): Well thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. The president has offered a plan that he believes will advance U.S. interests in Iraq and the Middle East. In recent conversations with the president, I have tried to underscore the need for a thorough effort to involve Congress in the decision-making process. And as we conduct dialogue with the executive branch, members of Congress have a responsibility to make informed and reasoned judgments about what the president is proposing.
Congress must carefully studying how the president's plan will affect the welfare of American service men and women, the prospects for success in Iraq and the future of our broader strategic interests. This morning our committee had an opportunity to engage Secretary Rice in a frank discussion about the president's plan and the situation in Iraq. This afternoon we will continue our inquiry with the help of an impressive panel of witnesses who represent competing points of view. In my comments at the hearing this morning, I outlined what I believe are the United States' primary strategic objectives in Iraq. And they are: preventing the use of Iraq as a safe haven or training grounds for terrorism; preventing civil war and upheaval in Iraq from creating instability that leads to regional war; the overthrow of friendly governments; the destruction of oil facilities or other calamities; and preventing a loss of U.S. credibility in the region and the world. And preventing Iran, finally, from dominating the region.
I suggest that given these objectives, the outcome in Iraq is imminently connected with what happens beyond Iraq's borders. On this basis, I believe that any plan for Iraq must includes a vigorous and a creative regional, diplomatic component, that makes use of our strengths, including our stabilizing military presence in the region.
The options that will be presented by our witnesses center on fundamental questions of whether the United States should continue its military presence in Iraq. As you make your arguments I'll be interested in how you prescribe a broader strategic context of the Middle East that is vital to the national security. My own view is that we must have a military presence in Iraq indefinitely and that we ought to inform all the border countries of that proposition in addition to Iraqis. The positioning of those forces is at issue and hopefully you will have some comments about that.
I look forward to your insights and our experts as they come along and trail throughout the hearings that Senator Biden has planned. And I thank the chairman again for holding this hearing this afternoon.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.
AMB. PETER GALBRAITH: Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar, members of the Committee on Foreign Relations, thank you for the invitation to testify before this committee on alternative strategies toward Iraq. It's a special privilege for me to be here since the committee was my professional home for 14 years, and it is here where I had a great deal of my education on Iraq, as some of the more senior members of the committee may recall. I have submitted a detailed statement together with a one-page summary of my plan and I hope that they will be included in the record of these hearings.
SEN. BIDEN: Without objection they will be.
AMB. GALBRAITH: And before I begin, I was asked by the committee staff just to clarify my relationship with the Kurdistan regional government. I've sent an e-mail on that, but as described in my book, I've been friends with the Kurdish leaders and for that matter other Iraqis for a very long period of time. But I am not in a paid relationship with the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Iraq has broken up and it is in the midst of a civil war. Reality and not wishes must dictate our strategy. President Bush's new strategy relies on two elements that simply do not exist.
First, an inclusive national unity government in Iraq, and second, Iraqi security services, that is the army and the police, that are loyal to Iraq and not to their sect or ethnic group. The Maliki government is a sectarian Shiite government that is regarded as alien and indeed, even non-Iraqi by the Sunni Arabs and is irrelevant by the Kurds. Its conduct, the protection of Shiite militias, its selective provision of government services, the manner in which it carried out Saddam's execution provide no evidence that it can transform itself into something different from what it is.
But even if Iraq had a genuine government of national unity, it would be largely irrelevant. There is no part of the country where the government actually exercises significant authority. In the southern half of Iraq and eastern Baghdad, Shiite religious parties have created local theocracies that use militias to enforce a version of Islamic law modeled on Iran but far stricter. The much vaunted human rights provisions of the Iraqi constitution do not apply.
Kurdistan in the North is a de facto, independent state with its own army and its own flag. The Iraqi Army is barred from the region. Flying the Iraqi flag is prohibited. And central government ministries are not present. Further, the Kurdish people voted 98.5 percent for independence in a non-binding referendum held in January 2005.
The Sunni center is a battleground between insurgents that command widespread local support and U.S. forces. And Baghdad is the frontline of the Sunni-Shiite civil war. The Mahdi Army, the radical Shiite militia, controls the capital Shiite neighborhoods in the East, while al-Qaeda, its offshoots and Baathists control Sunni districts in the West. In Baghdad and in other formerly mixed areas, extremists are engaging in brutal sectarian cleansing with a death toll that may well be in excess of 200 a day.
Iraq's army and police reflect Iraq's divisions. They are either Sunni or Shiite. The Shiite police include the death squads that target Sunnis. In Sunni areas, the police are either insurgent sympathizers for insurgents.
Iraq's army, while somewhat better, is divided into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish battalions. They are ultimately loyal not to the national chain of command or the nominal chain of command, but to their political party leaders, or in the case of the Kurds, to the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Iraq's security forces are not neutral guarantors of public security, but combatants in a civil war. U.S. training has not and will not make these forces into Iraqis. It will only create more lethal combatants in a civil war.
The goal of a self-sustaining, unified and democratic Iraq would require a vast expansion of the U.S. military mission in Iraq to include disarming Shiite militias, dismantling the theocracies, and policing Iraq's mixed areas in order to end the civil war. The Iraqi government has no intention of taking on the Shiite militias and Iraq's security forces cannot police Iraq's mixed areas since there are no such forces that are trusted by both Sunnis and Shiites.
The president's plan, in short, does nothing to stop Iraq's civil war or to build a unified Iraq. The alternative is to accept the reality that Iraq has broken up and to work with its components. We should get out of the business of nation-building in Iraq, and respect the democratic decision of the Iraqis to have a country of very strong regions and a powerless center.
Iraq's constitution, adopted by 80 percent of Iraq's people, is a roadmap to partition. It recognizes Kurdistan as a self-governing region, and permits other parts of the country to form regions. Iraq's Council of Representatives has already passed a law paving the way to the formation of a Shiite super region in the south in the next 15 months.
Under Iraq's constitution, regions can have their own armies -- called Regional Guards -- and exercise substantial control over their natural resources, including oil. Except for the short list of exclusive federal powers listed in Article 110 of the Iraqi Constitution, regional law is superior to federal law in Iraq. By design, Iraq's constitution makes it difficult for the central government to function, and its few powers do not even include taxation. The regionalization of Iraq is a fact and it also provides the best hope for security, and therefore, opens the way to a U.S. withdrawal.
Without any significant coalition presence, Kurdistan has already made itself into the one secure and reasonably democratic part of Iraq. The south is also reasonably secure and will become more so as it forms its regional institutions. No purpose is served by a coalition presence in the south and it should be withdrawn immediately.
Regionalization makes for a more effective strategy in combating the Sunni insurgency. Right now, U.S. forces battle Sunni insurgents on behalf of a Shiite led government and a Shiite dominated military. Sunnis see these forces as alien and dangerous. Too many Sunnis see the choice today as one between their own extremists and a pro-Iranian Shiite government that sponsors anti-Sunni death squads. At least in that scenario, the Sunni extremists are not trying to kill you, where the other guys are.
By forming their own region, Sunni Arabs can provide for their own security and there could be economic and other incentives to combat extremists. In my view the U.S. should state that it withdraw from the Sunni Arab region when a Sunni Regional Guard is established. So far, the Sunni Arabs have been the strongest proponents of federalism in Iraq. But with Kurdistan already in existence and a Shiite region likely on its way, the Sunnis are faced with a choice between governing themselves or being governed by a Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad.
The U.S. has one achievable, over-riding interest in Iraq today, which is to keep al-Qaeda and its ilk from having a base from which they can attack the U.S. If Sunni Arabs cannot provide for their own security, then the U.S. must be prepared to re-engage in the Sunni areas. This is best accomplished by placing a small over-the-horizon force in Kurdistan.
Kurdistan has the western-oriented aspiring democracy that the U.S. once hoped for all of Iraq. And the Kurds are among the most pro-American people in the world. They would welcome a U.S. base, not least because it would provide them as a measure of security against Arab Iraqis who may well seek revenge for their collaboration with the U.S. effort in Iraq. From Kurdistan, the U.S. military could readily move back into any Sunni Arab area where al-Qaeda or its allies established a base. And the Kurdish Peshmerga would willingly assist their American allies with intelligence and other support. By deploying to what is still nominally Iraqi territory, the U.S. would avoid the political complications in the U.S. and in Iraq involved in re-entering Iraq following the total withdrawal.
Partition, as noted by the Baker-Hamilton Commission and by many experts, is not an easy solution. But many of the worst consequences of partition, including sectarian killing and an Iranian-dominated Shiite south, have already happened. And the U.S. has no plan to reverse any of this. The advantage of partition is that it is an Iraqi solution.
And, Mr. Chairman, if I may say, I'm often asked what is the difference between the plan that you and Les Gelb put forward and the plan that I have outlined? And I would say that the central point is what they share is that we believe that the future of Iraq is up to the Iraqis. You and Les Gelb are more optimistic about what that future might bring and if you're right, I think that would be terrific. I'm more pessimistic about the prospects of the state -- that the country can hold together over the long-term. But nonetheless, the fundamental premise is that the U.S. is not engaged in nation building in Iraq. It is left to Iraqis.
Partition is an Iraqi solution. It does not require the U.S. to do anything, although we can and should take steps diplomatically and through our financial assistance that can smooth the process and also to try to deal with the regional consequences. The alternative to partition is a continued U.S. led effort at nation building that has not worked for the last four years, and in my view has no prospect for success. That, Mr. Chairman, is a formula for war without an end.
MR. FREDERICK KAGAN: Mr. Chairman, honorable -
SEN. BIDEN: Again, welcome.
MR. KAGAN: -- (members ?) of this committee, I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak before you today on this issue that is of such great importance to our nation. Iraq is clearly in a very dire situation right now, and no objective observer could deny that. And we face at this moment, I believe, a series of very difficult choices among options -- none of which are pleasant, none of which can promise success, all of which carry increased risk of one form or another.
I'd like to stress that I do believe that there is an option that can succeed in at least offering us a chance to move forward toward a road that would actually be acceptable to us over the long-term. And I do believe that that option is embodied in a plan that I have presented at AEI some time ago in the report called "Choosing Victory."
But I'd like first to highlight the fact that I believe that we have come to a point of bifurcation in the history of the world. And I don't think that's too strong a statement. I think that it is impossible to overstate how much rides on the outcome of the war in Iraq today.
A number of experts from various parties and persuasions have looked at the possibility and likelihood of containing a civil war in Iraq that is now under way and preventing it from spreading throughout the region without actually tamping it down and bringing it under control in Iraq. And the conclusions are very, very poor, very, very pessimistic. Judging from past civil wars, ethno-sectarian conflicts around the world, it is very clear that a civil war allowed to proceed unchecked in Iraq as the result of a precipitant American withdrawal is highly likely to spread violence throughout the entire region, destabilize Iraq's neighbors, and may quite possibly lead to regional conflict.
This is not something that the United States could view with any degree of equanimity. This is not Southeast Asia. This is not a part of the world that we can walk away from. This is a region that will always be at the center of America's vital interests in the world and not an area where we can simply watch idly as conflict expands and brings in ever more warriors.
Unfortunately, I think this nightmare scenario is not improbable if we do not bring the violence in Iraq under control, and work hard to re-establish an Iraqi state that can govern its territory and maintain its own security and defend itself against foes internal and external. And I do believe that it is possible to do that.
We have not succeeded in Iraq, so far, because we have not applied sound strategy to this conflict. I think that's very clear. I've been making that case consistently, honestly even since before the war began. Sound strategy requires -- sound strategy in counterinsurgency requires first and foremost, providing security to the population.
When people have to wake up in the morning and wonder and worry if they and their families will live to see the evening, they will not participate in the political process in a normal way. They will not participate in economic processes in a normal way. They will not interact with one another even with family and friends and neighbors in a normal way. That is a fact of human nature and it has been seen in many, many conflicts.
It is no surprise to me therefore, that the Iraqis thus far have not been behaving in the manner that we would like them to behave in. That is to say, a manner that is characterized by compromise and civility and inclusiveness. When the violence has reached a point that we have allowed it to reach through not working hard enough to bring it under control, it is natural for Iraqi sects and groups to turn to their own powers and their own capabilities to defend each other. And it is unfortunately also natural for them to begin to attack each other.
Iraq does not, in fact, have a long history of vast sectarian conflict ripping it apart from age to age. The level of violence that we're seeing now is unusual in Iraqi history as it is unusual in the history of most states. I do believe that we can work to bring it under control and I do believe that bringing security to the Iraqi people in the first instance will enable them to begin to make the difficult choices and compromises that will be so essential to allow them to move forward to create the sort of stable state that we desire and that they desire.
I do not believe that solutions such as partition will be effective or will be, rather, tolerable. Unfortunately, it is not the case that Iraq is now divided neatly into three zones which can simply each be given its own government. Although there has been sectarian cleansing going on in Baghdad and in other cities in Iraq, Baghdad remains a mixed city. Many of its neighborhoods remain mixed between sects. And, actually dividing the country into three zones will require, de facto, an enormous amount more sectarian cleansing. Another word for this process, I believe, would be genocide, as I believe that the increasing escalation of violence that is a normal part of any widespread sectarian cleansing, generally leads to such efforts.
I do not believe that the United States can stand by, purely from an ethical perspective, and watch that occur. And I would remind the committee that it was the position, of especially the Democratic Party in the Clinton Administration in the 1990s, that it was intolerable for the United States to stand idly by and watch as ethnic cleansing and genocide went on in the Balkans. I really can't imagine how we could believe that it could be tolerable now to permit and indeed even encourage that to occur when we are so clearly partially responsible for the circumstances in which this violence has developed.
But I want to emphasize we are not in Iraq, in my view, for the benefit of the Iraqis. We are in Iraq, in my view, in pursuit of American national interests. And the national interest at this point is the prevention of the development of regional civil war and regional violence on a scale that would be intolerable to us. And I believe that purely in the service of our own interests, if nothing else, it is vital that we work to bring the violence under control.
Now, we have put forward a plan which we presented in great detail called "Choosing Victory" in which we recommend the introduction of additional U.S. forces into Baghdad and into Al-Anbar province. We believe that this plan is workable. We brought together a group of military planners with significant experience, recent experience in Iraq. We were advised by General Jack Keene, the former vice chief of staff of the Army and Lt-Gen. (Retired) David Barnow, and a number of other officers who gave us their wisdom.
And we looked very carefully at what we believed the military requirements would be of bringing security to the vital Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad as the beginning of an operation to pacify the entire city which would then enable us to move beyond Baghdad into troubled areas in Diyala, Salah ad-Din, and elsewhere. We also believed that it was necessary to increase our forces in Al-Anbar province, which is another base of the Sunni insurgency, in order to prevent insurgents from moving easily back and forth between that province and Baghdad.
We emphasize that we do not believe that this security operation by itself will lead to success in Iraq. It is, rather, the essential precondition for moving forward with the host of reconciliation initiatives, political developments, and economic developments that will be vital in the end to resolving this conflict.
There has been much complaint about the fact the Iraqi armed forces are not ethnically mixed, not sectarian-ly mixed. Of course, they're not. You cannot recruit Sunni Arabs into a force when the insurgents are terrorizing their families, and killing their family members when they join the army.
As we have seen in Tal Afar and Ramadi and in other places, when you can bring security to an area, you can then begin to recruit Sunni Arabs and other ethnicities and sects into the armed forces and produce a more balanced force. Security is the precondition. I will freely say, because I have said it consistently all along, that the Bush Administration has made an error in not prioritizing the establishment of security in Iraq. I do not believe, and it was our considered opinion when we studied this problem very carefully, we do not believe that the situation is so far gone that no solution is feasible.
People have challenged the numbers of troops that would be required to do this. I would say they should explain -- the burden is on them to explain what forces they think would be necessary and on what basis they make the calculation. We have been completely open and transparent on the basis for our force calculations which are in line with traditional counterinsurgency practice, and also with the experience of operations in Iraq previously. We believe that these forces will be adequate to provide security in the areas of Baghdad that we think is most important.
We recommended a significant reconstruction effort to accompany this program. We are going to be continuing in subsequent phases of this project to examine changes that we think need to be made in the training of the Iraqi army, the training of the Iraqi police, reconstruction efforts, and the development of Iraqi governmental structures and so forth. We clearly do believe our study is something that will take some time, and the reconstruction of Iraq is something that will take some time.
But we're absolutely convinced that simply allowing Iraq to collapse now, by withdrawing our forces or by trying to carve off some piece of Iraq and protect only that, is not in the interest of the United States of America and will, in fact, put us in tremendous jeopardy over the long run and possibly even in the short run. And we therefore believe that it is vital and urgent that we work now to bring the situation under control. I thank you.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Kagan.
DR. TED GALEN CARPENTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and I want to thank the committee for the invitation to offer my views this afternoon. I have provided a longer written statement and I would request that that be included in the record.
SEN. BIDEN: In the case of all of you, if you have a written statement that (exceeded ? ) or is different than what your verbal testimony is, that will be included in the record.
DR. CARPENTER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Optimism about the U.S. mission in Iraq has faded dramatically in the past few months. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group accurately concluded that the situation was "grave and deteriorating." The Pentagon's report to Congress in November 2006 paints a similarly dismal picture with attacks on U.S. troops, Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi civilians all at record levels.
Yet proponents of the war refuse to admit what is increasingly obvious: That Washington's Iraq occupation and democratization mission is failing, and there is little realistic prospect that its fortunes will improve. Something much more dramatic than a modest course correction is needed.
It is essential to ask the Administration and its supporters at what point they will admit that the costs of this venture have become unbearable. How much longer are they willing to have our troops stay in Iraq? Two years? Five years? Ten years? How many more tax dollars are they willing to pour into Iraq? Another $300 billion? $600 billion? $1 trillion? And most crucial of all, how many more American lives are they willing to sacrifice? Two thousand? Five thousand? Ten thousand? It is time for the supporters of the war to be specific.
Proponents of the mission avoid addressing such unpleasant questions. Instead, they act as though victory in Iraq can be achieved merely through the exercise of will power, that we can choose victory.
Whether or not one describes it as a civil war, the security situation in Iraq is extraordinarily violent and chaotic. Moreover, the nature of the violence has shifted with a principal component now sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites. The Iraq Study Group noted that four of Iraq's 18 provinces are "highly insecure" and those provinces account for 40 percent of the country's population.
A November 2006 U.N. report highlights the extent of the growing bloodshed. The carnage is now running at at least 120 victims each day. We must remember this is occurring in a country of barely 26 million people. A comparable pace in the United States would be a horrifying 1,400 deaths per day or nearly 500,000 a year. If political violence were consuming that many American lives, there would be little debate about whether the United States was in a civil war.
In addition to the growing violence, there is mounting evidence that the majority of Iraqis no longer want U.S. troops in their country. The bottom line is that the United States is mired in a country that is already in the early stages of an exceedingly complex, multi-sided civil war. And this is not just a war between Sunnis and Shiites, this is a war with multiple factions including intra-conflict among the various sects. It is also a situation where all significant factions save one-the Kurds-want American troops to leave. That is an untenable situation.
Increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq by 21,000 or so is a futile attempt to salvage a mission that has gone terribly wrong. It would merely increase the number of casualties-both American and Iraqi-over the short-term while having little long-term impact on the security environment. Moreover, the magnitude of the proposed build- up falls far short of the numbers needed to give the occupation forces a realistic prospect of suppressing the violence. Experts on counterinsurgency for many, many years have consistently concluded that at least 10 soldiers per 1,000 population are required to have a sufficient impact. And indeed, many experts have argued that in cases where armed resistance is intense and pervasive, which certainly seems to apply to Iraq, deployments of 20 soldiers per 1,000 may be needed.
Given Iraq's population of 26 million, such a mission would require the deployment of at least 260,000 ground forces and probably as many as 520,000. We simply don't have the troops for that kind of mission. A limited surge of additional troops is the latest illusory panacea offered by the people who brought us the Iraq quagmire in the first place. It is an idea that should be rejected, and instead the United States needs to withdraw from Iraq.
Proponents of staying in Iraq offer several reasons why a prompt withdrawal would be bad for the United States. They argue that al- Qaeda's 1,300 fighters will somehow take over Iraq. That a U.S. withdrawal will embolden Islamic radicals worldwide. That a withdrawal will lead to a regional Sunni-Shiite proxy war. And that leaving Iraq without achieving our goals would betray a moral obligation to the Iraqi people.
Ideally with all of those allegations at some length in my written statement, suffice it to say here that those arguments vary in terms of plausibility, some-especially the notion that al-Qaeda will be able to take over Iraq-are far-fetched. Others, especially the concern about a regional proxy war, have some validity. All of them though are ultimately deficient as a reason for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq.
A decision to withdraw and leave Iraq to its own fate is certainly not without adverse consequences. America's adversaries will portray the pull-out as a defeat for U.S. policy. But staying on indefinitely in a dire and deteriorating security environment is even worse for our country. The costs, both tangible and intangible, of a prompt exit must be measured against the costs of staying in Iraq. Moreover, even if the United States absorbs the costs of a prolonged mission, there is no realistic prospect that anything resembling victory resides at the end of that effort.
Indeed, most of the indicators suggest that we would be merely delaying the inevitable. The intangible costs are already considerable. America's reputation in the Muslim world is at its lowest level in history largely because of the Iraq mission.
America's reputation elsewhere in the world, including among long- standing allies and friends, has likewise taken a major hit. The all volunteer force has been strained to the breaking point.
And the social wounds that the Vietnam War inflicted on our society, which took so long to heal, have been ripped open. Our country is once again bitterly divided over a murky war. The longer we stay in Iraq, the worse all of those problems will become.
The tangible costs are even more depressing. The financial tab for the Iraq mission is already some $350 billion, and the meter is running at approximately $8 billion a month. And that is before the president's new escalation. Furthermore, even those appalling figures do not take into account substantial indirect costs, such as the expense of long-term care for wounded Iraq war veterans.
The United States needs to adopt a decisive withdrawal strategy measured in months, not years. A longer schedule would simply prolong the agony.
Emotionally, deciding to leave under current conditions will not be easy, for it requires an implicit admission that Washington has failed in its ambitious goal to create a stable, united, democratic, secular Iraq that would be a model for people peace throughout the Middle East. But that goal was unrealistic from the outset. It is difficult for any nation, and especially the American superpower, to admit failure. However, it is better to admit failure while the adverse consequences are manageable. Failure in Iraq would be a setback for the United States, particularly in terms of global clout and credibility.
But one of the advantages to being a superpower is that the country can absorb a setback without experiencing catastrophic damages to its core interests or capabilities. Failure in Iraq does not even come close to threatening those core interests and capabilities. Most important, a withdrawal now will be less painful than withdrawing years from now when the cost in blood, treasure, and credibility will be even greater.
The withdrawal needs to be comprehensive, not partial. The only troops remaining in Iraq should be a modest number of Special Forces personnel who would work with political factions to eradicate the al- Qaeda interlopers in their country. It must be clear to Iraqis and to populations throughout the Muslim world that Washington has no intention of trying to maintain a military presence in Iraq. That has already become a lightning rod for the Muslim world.
Above all, U.S. policymakers need to absorb the larger lesson of the Iraq debacle. Launching an elective war in pursuit of a nation- building fantasy was an act of folly. It is a folly that policymakers should vow never to repeat. Thank you.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much, Dr. Carpenter.
I'd like to because my colleagues have been so patient today -- Why not yield my time and I'll ask the questions last on our side. And I'll yield first to Senator Menendez.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the courtesy.
I want to thank all of the panelists here for their testimony. I'd like to start with you Dr. Kagan. Did you have an opportunity to advise the White House about your plan?
MR. KAGAN: Senator, I have not spoken with the president, but I have spoken with individuals in the White House.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Are they senior officials of the White House?
MR. KAGAN: Yes, senator.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Uh-huh. Is the plan that you heard the president describe last night -- would you say it is largely your plan?
MR. KAGAN: Senator, it's very difficult for me to tell. The president gave a very general speech. The elements of the plan relating to the change of mission, the new strategy to try to secure Iraq, the commitment of five additional combat brigades to Baghdad. Certainly, those are things that we recommended. I have not yet seen in any detail the actual military proposal that the president intends to pursue. And so I can't really say to what extent this is my plan.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Do you agree with the essence of his plan last night?
MR. KAGAN: Well, I certainly believe that the change in strategy is essential-- That we must commit to trying to establish security in Baghdad first. And I do believe that we need additional forces in order to do that--
SEN. MENENDEZ: So, what is the timeframe for that? How long do we stay there. Even under your plan, let's assume for argument's sake this is your plan --
MR. KAGAN: Our estimates were that we would be able to establish security in Baghdad, at least in the neighborhoods that we were proposing to operate in by the end of 2007. We believe that we would need to sustain this higher force level into 2008 in order to support operations in Al Anbar, Diyala, and elsewhere. And we believe that somewhere in the 18-to-24-month period, we would be able to begin turning over responsibilities to Iraqi forces and withdrawing.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Okay. Now, we lead under your plan. We lead this fight, do we not?
MR. KAGAN: Under my plan, we would be working together with the Iraqis to clear and hold neighborhoods.
SEN. MENENDEZ: But, we've heard a lot of testimony included before this committee the other day I think. I think yesterday, and we've heard from others that the Iraqis don't have-at this point-the ability to show up for the purposes that had been outlined in this securing of Baghdad. Isn't that true? Isn't that pretty much recognized?
MR. KAGAN: Senator, when we developed our plan we took into account the possibility that the Iraqis would not come in the numbers that might be desirable. And so we attempted to define in a force level for American troops that would be adequate even if the Iraqis disappointed us--
SEN. MENENDEZ: Yeah, it just seems to me that we need to be honest with the American people in this plan. This plan as I see it, including that which is described by the president, wants to be sugar- coated under the guise that Iraqis are going to lead and we are somehow going to follow and give them an assist. And I clearly have the picture that this is American troops who will lead, will be at the forefront, will be the targets, and we will have some Iraqis assisting along the way. And that is a fundamentally different mission that both the president tried to suggest, and I heard Secretary Rice try to suggest this morning in her opening statement. And I think it's not quite honest about what is taking place.
Now, before I came to this afternoon's hearing, I got a notice that the New Jersey National Guard troops currently stationed in Iraq are going to have their tours extended by 120 days as a result of the president's policy to add to the war effort. And I think there is some release out saying that extension of troop tours by both the Guard and Reserve is now going to be part of the policy of the United States for up to an additional year. Isn't that going to have real consequences on the military that is already far-stretched, and cannot meet these challenges on morale, on performance in the field, and ultimately on the very recruitment that we need to build up the armed forces strength of the United States?
MR. KAGAN: Senator, I, and the active duty and retired officers who developed this plan are all very concerned about the strains on the Army and the Marine Corps, and the National Guard and Reserves. That we think that set against that, we must also be extremely concerned about the prospect that the damage that will be done to the volunteer force by defeat in Iraq, which we believe will be drawn out at a painful and an extremely emotionally, searing event. And we think that it will actually do much greater damage to the force than the relatively short extensions of --
SEN. MENENDEZ: Is there an answer to how many lives and how much money?
MR. KAGAN: Senator --
SEN. MENENDEZ: Where is it that you define, Dr. Kagan, and those who advocate along your lines.
Where is it that you define that if you do not have success as you have pointed out, a way that you believe we can achieve success? Where is the tipping point? Because, to listen to those advocates who say that we cannot fail in Iraq and believe that failure in terms of the military option is the driving force and i.e., to create security.
We have had escalations. They have not succeeded because in my mind we haven't had the political surge to do it. Now, you reject that. The point being, at what point when you do not succeed again, at what point will come and tell us, "Well if we had another 20-30- 40,000 troops, we could ultimately succeed here"?
It just seems to me that we've been through this in our history before. Where is the tipping point? But you're willing to admit that a different course, and even the one you suggest, is appropriate?
MR. KAGAN: Senator, I have high confidence that the plan that we proposed will bring down the level of violence in Baghdad. And I believe that that will be a positive good even if we ultimately have to withdraw from the country because of other unfortunate developments in the political realm. I believe that we need to take this opportunity to try to restore order and try to get ourselves on a track that will avoid some of the terrible consequences of defeat. If that doesn't work, then obviously we will have to reconsider.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Thank you.
Dr. Carpenter, very quickly, I have about a minute left. In your testimony-written testimony-you talk about bringing others in a regional conference including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. You heard that maybe, I don't know if you heard the Secretary of State's answers to two of those partners along the way of not having them engaged. Could you give your own reflections on that and how does bringing Saudi Arabia and Turkey to the table at the same time in a regional conflict gives us an opportunity to offset some of her concerns. How do you view that?
DR. CARPENTER: Senator, I think it is absolutely essential to involve all of Iraq's neighbors in an attempt to try to at least quarantine the violence in that country, and prevent it from becoming a regional proxy war or even worse, a regional war. That simply cannot be accomplished without involving Iran and Syria. As distasteful as we rightfully regard those governments, they are important actors in the region. And one of the basic lessons I think we need to learn for American foreign policy, generally, is that it is not very effective to refuse to talk to one's adversaries. That the most difficult task of diplomacy is getting results from regimes that you quite frankly wished didn't exist.
It's easy to talk to one's friends. It is very, very difficult, but ever so necessary to talk to one's adversaries. And we are not going to get any kind of solution-even the limited solution of quarantining the violence in Iraq, unless we draw in Iran and Syria as well as Iraq's other neighbors into this process.
SEN. MENENDEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you, Senator.
SEN. LUGAR: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I'm going to follow your good example and yield to Senator Corker.
If I can interrupt for just one moment, I would say to my colleagues-- If, in fact, that you have additional questions in light of the relatively small number here, my intention would be to allow you to go back for second round if the panel would be willing to stick around. Thank you.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN): Thank you, gentleman. I appreciate it. I enjoyed your remarks. And again, I want to thank our chairman for distinguished panelists that we continue to have in these meetings.
I think that we talk a great deal about ending the war in Iraq and withdrawing our troops, but I think we all know that the war in Iraq is going to continue for years in one way or another if we leave. And so, I'd like for each of you to respond if you will, to us if we in fact do withdraw, if in fact President Bush's plan is not followed. I'd like for y'all to paint the picture-I know there is going to be tremendous civil strife. Tens and thousands of lives will be lost in the following period. Describe to us if you will, if withdrawal does occur in a timely fashion-six months, nine months-how you view Iraq to be when that occurs.
AMB. GALBRAITH: Let me take a crack at that, Senator. Certainly, if we withdraw, there is going to be continued sectarian killing between Sunnis and Shiites. There is going to be enormous influence by Iran, whose closest friends are now the government of Iraq-the people that we installed.
The country, the central government, will not exercise any more authority than it does now, which is to say it will have basically no authority. Kurdistan will continue to be de facto independent. And, if we have stay in Iraq, all of those things will also be the case. There is a civil war going on and we are not containing that civil war. There is terrible sectarian killing, and we're not doing anything that's making any difference to that.
And an increase in the number of troops is not going to help that. Why? Well, to first start, our troops are not trained to be police. They don't speak the language. They don't have the local knowledge. And if they are relying on so-called Iraqi troops, again, you have to ask the question, "Who are they?"
They are going to be either Sunni or Shiite, or Kurdish Peshmerga. And if a person in a Baghdad neighborhood comes to a roadblock that is manned by those troops or manned by the police, if he's a Shiite and they are Sunni or vice versa, his life is going to be in peril. He's not going to feel safe in the presence of those troops. So, the short answer is that Iraq after withdrawal and Iraq today are not going to look very much different.
But there is just the one achievable goal, which is one of the one's that Senator Lugar mentioned. We can, I think, disrupt al- Qaeda.
MR. KAGAN: Senator, if I may, I must respectively disagree Iraq after withdrawal will look very different. It is not the case that we are doing nothing at all to contain the civil war and we should not delude ourselves into imaging that if we left, it would simply continue in this similar fashion.
It is certainly true that when Iraqis come to Iraqi checkpoints, manned only by Iraqis at this point, they are frequently nervous if those Iraqis are from another sect unless there are American soldiers present with them. And right now we have been very effective in a number of places in maintaining order, keeping a lid on things, working together with Iraqi troops that are there who do perform infinitely better when we are there and are much more restrained in their behavior and much more tolerated and trusted by the Iraqi population. And you can even see this on Sunni blogs in Iraq where Sunnis warn each other: if the Iraqi police come by themselves, we should be very worried about that. If they come with American troops, it's okay.
Now that's obviously not a good sign for being able to do any sort of rapid transition to the Iraqi police, but that's hardly news. It does mean first of all that the Iraqis are less hostile to our presence than many people make out. And it also means that we are playing an important role.
If we were to withdraw precipitately, the violence would increase dramatically, I think by orders of magnitude. I think you would end up seeing millions of people displaced. We're already seeing this process underway and it's extremely unfortunate. I believe that Iraq's neighbors would begin to get involved. They would have to, in terms of self-defense: there are already 900,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan, for instance.
I believe that they would attempt to resolve this problem by moving their own forces forward into Iraq in order to stem the refugee tides and contain the violence before it reaches their borders. I think they would be drawn rapidly into the conflict. I think some of them would seek to be drawn into the conflict by supporting one side or the other. I think before very long you would find that Iraq's neighbors would see themselves as stakeholders in various parts of the outcome of this conflict and would begin mobilizing increasing military power to back their stakes.
In short, I believe it's very likely that we would find ourselves in the midst of a regional conflict in a region from which we cannot leave, in an area which we simply cannot abandon, and with the stakes much higher and the conditions for us much worse even apart from the humanitarian catastrophe that would be involved.
SEN. CORKER: And that sounds a lot like escalation to me, but go ahead.
MR. CARPENTER: Senator, first of all I would agree with almost everything that Ambassador Galbraith said. I think it's important to emphasize that the civil war is already underway in Iraq.
We have a situation - I've already cited the number of people dying on a daily basis - 1.6 million people have been displaced internally, largely moving from areas where they are an ethnic minority to one where they are in the majority. So ethnic cleansing and the sectarian divide is growing almost by the day. 1.8 million people have already left the country entirely. And those are primarily the middle class Iraqis - the very people that we want as building blocks for a strong civil society. They're leaving. This is with the American troop presence there.
We face the prospect now of trying to play referee in an on-going multi-sided civil war. I can't think of anything that would be a more futile and frustrating task than trying to play that role. And for Dr. Kagan I think it's important to stress that this kind of commitment would be open-ended. We would be refereeing this year after year after year. There would be no discernible end in sight.
As Ambassador Galbraith has already delineated, Iraq has already fragmented. We're seeing this process proceed, but it is very, very unlikely that it is going to be reversed.
SEN. CORKER: Thank you for your comments, and I really do ask these questions without bias and I know my time is up, but let me - so what you're saying is you had sensed no intensified killing, no escalation whatsoever whether we are there or not there. Do you think it would remain exactly as is today? That's what Dr. Galbraith said.
DR. CARPENTER: I think we're going to see an intensification whenever we leave, whether that is six months from now or six years from now.
What we need to focus on, and I agree with him fully, is making sure that al Qaeda cannot use any portion of Iraq for a safe haven. I think that danger is exaggerated, but it's not insignificant. We do have to deal with that problem.
And we need to focus on a limited attainable objective, namely quarantining that violence in Iraq so that it does not become a regional war. And I believe there is a reasonable prospect of convincing even Iran and Syria that a proxy war can easily spiral out of control and it would not be in their best interest to tolerate that kind of development. That it is better to quarantine this conflict and allow the dynamics in Iraq to play themselves out.
Perhaps at some point, the various factions in Iraq will agree on compromise. Either a reasonably peaceful formal partition, or a very loose federation with adequate political compromise, but they have to determine that. We cannot determine that for them.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much. I say to my friend from Florida, I've taken his advice and if it's all right with him, alright? Senator Casey.
SEN. CASEY (D-PA): I was fully prepared to give back the favor that Senator Nelson gave me yesterday, but thank you.
Mr. Chairman, thank you, and I appreciate this opportunity. Not that I don't want to see my colleagues, but this is a nice way to do a hearing. You get to this end quicker this way.
I'm grateful for this opportunity and I'm grateful for the three of you spending the time and providing the scholarship that we provide for this important discussion today. My friends in the media should cover this as they did this morning's hearing, but that's not the way things are done here.
But let me get right to a couple of basic questions, and I think I'll direct some of these at each member of the panel. But in particular - I guess the first one I direct with specificity to Dr. Galbraith - Ambassador Galbraith.
You mention the presence of and the activity of what you call local theocracies. It's the first time I had heard that kind of pinpoint analysis of what's happening really in the neighborhoods, so of speak, on that. And you talked about local theocracies operating in action taking place at the local level, which is in contravention of or in conflict with the Constitution.
Could you amplify that?
AMBASSADOR GALBRAITH: Senator, we talk about Iraq as if there were a functioning Iraqi government and then a situation where there's a violence that's somehow directed against that government.
But the reality is that you have - in the Shiite areas, you have different Shiite political parties who control different parts of the south and indeed - well, different parts of Baghdad, or principally Baghdad I guess is the Mahdi Army. But different parts of the South, and they enforce their own law so that if you're accused of a crime or some offense against the religion, you don't go to the state-run court quite often. You'll end up before some kind of ad hoc court and you'll be punished summarily.
And indeed, although the sale of alcohol for example is not illegal in Iraq, Christians who sell alcohol have been targeted and killed in these summary executions in accordance, more or less, with local law.
It is in many places a relatively stable situation. And if we wanted to get rid of it, it would involve a major military operation - I mean several hundred thousand troops.
The one place where it's not stable is Basra and that is because there are three different Shiite parties that are vying for the control of the city. And more importantly, who are vying for the control of the smuggling of oil. A hundred thousand barrels less a day enters the pipeline near Basra than actually gets on the ships in the Persian Gulf, I was told by the Oil Ministry. And that is going in to fund these three parties and their militias.
SEN. CASEY: And the next question I have pertains just to diplomacy generally. I'll direct it to the Ambassador, but certainly Dr. Carpenter, Dr. Kagan can also weigh in on this - and you should if we've got enough time.
The question of diplomacy: Ambassador, if you had - I want to say if you had a magic wand -- but if you had the opportunity to construct a diplomatic strategy starting today and going forward, forget about the past and allow me to talk about what I would judge failures, but let's just start from today going forward. What's the best strategy in your mind in terms of dealing with what were the cards we've been dealt, just in terms of an overall, fully engaged, diplomatic strategy?
AMBASSADOR GALBRAITH: Well, first I think we need to be clear about our objectives and even if we wished Iraq were to hold together, we also need to be realistic.
And one of the things that we need to avoid is - or seek to minimize - is the violence that accompanies the break-up. And that could be greatly increased if regional powers intervene; Turkey, for example, into Kurdistan or Kirkuk where a referendum is supposed to be held at the end of this year - intervention, increased Iranian intervention. Should the Saudis say, what they've threatened to do - intervene on behalf of the Sunnis, although I that's largely an empty threat.
So, in that - part of it, I think, is to engage diplomatically to try to help the region face up to the reality and to try to make whatever is going to develop as palatable as possible.
I didn't ever subscribe to the notion in Baker-Hamilton Report that talking to Iran or Syria would do much good about Iraq because Iran, in fact, supports the same Shiite-led government that we do. In fact, they were completely - the people who are in power in Iraq are Iran's best friends, so it isn't as if they wish to undermine it, even if they're against our presence. And Syria's not a large player. And so there isn't much to be accomplished there.
I do believe, however, that we should talk to Iran and Syria on other issues. And I suppose a line from President Kennedy's inaugural address is relevant here when he said, we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate. I mention that perhaps because it was my father who wrote it for President Kennedy.
SEN. BIDEN: I should be attributing that to your father then, than President Kennedy. It's a great line. And it's a good point.
SEN. CASEY: I wanted to ask one more question, but Dr. Carpenter, Dr. Kagan, if you want to weigh in.
MR. KAGAN: Sure. I think we have to realistic bout what diplomacy can achieve and what diplomacy cannot achieve.
I am not going to say how a priori that we should or should not negotiate with any state of the region. What I am going to say is that the problems in Iraq that we're facing right now are internal Iraqi problems primarily.
The money for the insurgency is coming primarily from corruption and crime and other things that are internal to Iraq. There are weapons that are coming into Iraq, but as a friend of mine in the U. S. military said once, there's enough high explosive in Iraq to conflict going at this level for 1,000 years. There is no real prospect for cutting off supply to this insurgency or to this violence and thereby turning it off, and therefore, with all of the good will in the world, I do not believe that the Iranians or the Syrians are capable of helping us materially in Iraq even were we could talk to them.
Neither do I believe that it would effective to try to negotiate with the states of the region in order to get them to hold the ring while their co-religionists slug it out in a vicious, sectarian, genocidal civil war.
I think - it is very odd to me that people are ready to say that the Iraqis are irrational and will not act in their own interests and that they're simply hopeless, and yet say that nevertheless the Iranians will be perfectly rational despite evidence to the contrary. And other states in the region will behave with perfect rationality even if the stakes go up and the atrocities mount. I find that, frankly, unlikely.
SEN. CASEY: And we're out of time. Thank you.
One quick one - I don't know if it's a yes or no but in terms of the mechanics of constructing a diplomatic strategy going forward, what does that mean specifically -- in any of your opinions.
Does it mean Secretary Rice who's leaving I guess tomorrow and will be there for an extended period of time. Does that mean she's - in your judgment - stays? Does it mean an envoy that - what does it mean? Does it mean the President has to have more personal involvement? What are the building blocks of that kind of a - we can all talk about diplomacy, but what does that mean practically in terms of time and personnel and attention, if you get my drift.
DR. CARPENTER: There are a number of possible options. I would suggest putting a special envoy in charge. I think that's probably the more direct approach.
I think we also have to realistic. As much as it might be constructive over the long term to engage with Iran and other countries on a variety of issues, the more issues we add to the agenda, the greater the likelihood of a breakdown. And I speak specifically if we start bringing in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute into the mix. That almost guarantees failure.
I would have a narrow, very focused agenda and that is let's prevent the tragedy in Iraq - and it certainly is that - from becoming a full-blown regional tragedy. That I believe is attainable. There's no guarantee that we're going to succeed, but we ought to make the effort and I think there is at least a reasonable prospect we can succeed with that narrow but extremely important goal.
SEN. CASEY: Thank you.
SEN. BIDEN: Senator Lugar.
SEN. LUGAR: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to ask how the panel reacts to these observations.
It would appear that this may over-generalized, so correct me if I'm wrong, but prior to this time that our United States forces, if not on the periphery of Baghdad, we're clearly not imbedded as the term is now being used in the nine police districts of Baghdad, and as a result when we were called upon, we came in from the outside, took action, usually alongside the police or the army, whoever it was, and withdrew.
And this at least is a situation which is now condemned as permitting a great deal more casualties of Iraqis essentially, the level of killing and whether it's civil war or sectarian violence, that it escalated because of certain events.
So it would appear that the plan now being presented by the President is to have Americans imbedded in the headquarters. It's yet to be revealed specifically what the role of the Americans will be. Some of them said no, it will not be a door-to-door visit alongside an Iraqi police officer. Rather will be back at the headquarters, be monitoring the conduct of the Iraqis to make sure that it is neutral with regards to whoever - be it Sunni or anybody else that they might encounter.
And in this way essentially there'll be potentially better good will built up so that the government that has a three sectarian components may have some chance of operating and coming to decisions.
Now I would suggest that this maybe the most important goal, but on the other hand weigh this against the fact that already in the Senate or Congress or the public would say that this is the last chance. This is an opportunity to stop the unacceptable violence in Baghdad area. If it doesn't work, we're out of there. And they mean out of Iraq, not out of Baghdad.
This concerns me a great deal because I see the political dynamics might very well lead that way. The President has asked for support of this policy and for some reason it doesn't work very soon or maybe doesn't work very well at all, and people say, "That's enough."
Now leaving aside the strategic situations you all have presented today, which I don't think any of you are advocating a total withdrawal of American forces in Iraq as a whole, while you would have disagreement I suspect as to what the American forces do. Some of us have argued that the important objective really is having Americans in Iraq somewhere and for quite a while.
Largely because the entire area has the potential for sectarian violence and likewise a series of tragedies that conceivably could be prevented if there was a stability of an American presence in the area.
And that Secretary Rice and her tour now or subsequent ones conveys extensively that we are willing to be there and therefore they can count on that. It's not a negotiation, but it's an information. Likewise maybe if she is successful she gets a roundtable of all the groups that are involved, the nations, so they all inform each other of what their intent may be - everybody sort of hears it so that the chances for some regional stability are enhanced in that process.
Now Ambassador Galbraith has suggested that Americans might in fact reside in Kurdistan or the Kurd part of the country. At least one place that they are welcome and relatively safe in the area, but this could be any number of places. I don't want to game that out.
I'm just asking, I suppose, for some advice as to whether in this current political situation not only in Iraq, but in the Middle East and here, it is not a more prudent step to think in terms of how we maintain a presence.
And then we argue about that as opposed to numbers, surges, and precisely what the Americans will do - door-to-door or in the headquarters. Does anyone have a general comment on this? Ambassador.
AMBASSADOR GALBRAITH: I think the point you make is frankly very similar to the one that I've made in my testimony. That is, the United States does have some remaining achievable objectives; the most important one is one that you mentioned, namely disrupting al Qaeda. That is one reason not to withdraw completely.
There's some advantage to having U. S. forces in Iraq as a deterrent. And also certainly being in Kurdistan would be stabilizing in terms - I think the independence of Kurdistan is inevitable. It may not be desirable, but it is inevitable, but it's not immediate and in that sense a U. S. present can help bring stability to that region and provide reassurance to Turkey as well as deter any kind of action that might be taken by the surrounding states.
The reason I argue for Kurdistan is that that's where the forces would be welcome. You have them any place else in the country, they're going to be - a great deal of their effort is going to be on force protection.
I want to come back though to a fundamental problem, which I think everybody who comments on this has to address, which is that what happens after you've done these things? Either the President's plan or keeping a force in Kurdistan, it's not as if the fundamental situation in Iraq is going to change.
This government of Nouri al-Maliki is a government that reflects the will of 60 percent of the Iraqi population: that is, the Shiites who voted for it. They wish to define the country basically as a Shiite state. And even Sunnis who despised Saddam Hussein are not going to accept that definition of the state. On the other hand, the Shiites are not going to give up on it.
So you are never going to get an inclusive state. I exclude the Kurds because for all practical purposes, they're out of there already.
DR. KAGAN: Senator, if I could respond as well.
First of all, Ambassador Galbraith has made this point repeatedly, but I do find it a little bit odd. I understand the Kurdish perspective, but I find it a little bit odd to say that the Kurds are out of there already when the President of Iraq is a Kurd and when there is a substantial block of Kurdish representatives in Parliament - in the Iraqi Parliament - who have been extremely active.
The Kurds may think that they're out in some respects but they're clearly continuing to play. And I think the reason for that is that they understand that at the end of the day, it is not in the interest of Kurdistan for Kurdistan to break off from Iraq and have a vast sectarian civil war going on immediately to their South, which will inevitably push refugees in their direction and involve them in violence along their borders. That's not in their interest, and I credit the Kurds with more self-interest, more understanding of their self-interest than that - than to think that they imagine that that's going to be a happy scenario for them.
I'm very concerned about the military practicalities of a plan for maintaining U. S. forces in Kurdistan with the expectation that they will be doing things in Iraq. Where will they draw their supplies from? They certainly can't maintain a supply line the length of Iraq into Kurdistan without having a very substantial presence that would run against the concept.
They will have to draw their supplies from Turkey. Well the Turks might well allow that to happen for a variety of reasons, but I'm curious about what demands the Turks would end up making on the Kurds in return for support of our presence there. After all, the people who most adamantly oppose the idea of an independent Kurdistan are the Turks and the problems of the PKK and the fear of terrorism based in Kurdistan I fear could lead to a very, very nasty situation very rapidly.
In addition to that, Kurdistan is far away from any of the regions where we would have to be most concerned about Al Qaeda infiltration. And I think we have to ask ourselves what do we think the military operations look like? Are we going to fly our soldiers in helicopters across uncontrolled hostile terrain spotted with surface-to-air missiles and a variety of other dangers to land in unknown places, conduct operations and leave? Those are very daunting military operations.
It's must harder, if your concern is dealing with Al Qaeda, it's much harder and more dangerous to our soldiers to undertake those kinds of operations than it is to attempt to bring the security situation under control more generally and have a firm base in Iraq from which you can deal with these things on a local basis.
I'm also very concerned about the prospect of having American soldiers flown in on call from local Iraqis to deal with what problems that they record. We've seen that all too often when our soldiers are flying in from afar, coming in from afar, and do not know the local situation, they can easily be drawn into actions that are counter- productive.
When they're present, and when they can understand the neighborhood, and to talk about local knowledge at this point and say that our soldiers don't have it when many of them are going back on their third tours into Iraq, I must say I think we have a pretty fair amount of understanding of Iraq and the Army at this point.
Our soldiers on the ground are able to recognize situations that they should not involved themselves in, but only if they're there.
MR. CARPENTER: Mr. Chairman, if I could respond briefly.
In one sense, the President's new proposal is aggressive in that it further Americanizes the war, which I think is exactly the opposite direction we ought to be going.
But it's also an inherent contradiction in his speech last night. On the one hand he contends that it would be absolutely disastrous for the United States to leave Iraq with something less than a victory.
On the other hand, he sets up these milestones for the Iraqi government with certainly the implied threat that if the Iraqi government does not meet those milestones, our commitment is not unlimited and it's not open-ended, that we might then withdraw presumably with something less than a victory.
I would maintain he can't have it both ways. If it is true that any withdrawal from Iraq with less than a victory would truly be disastrous for the United States. That we are stuck in Iraq indefinitely, we have to stay there even if the Iraqi government were the biggest collection of villains or buffoons on the planet because our own vital interests would dictate that.
I would argue that, in fact, it would be far less than a disaster for the United States to leave Iraq and that ultimately we have a choice of leaving now having spent $350 billion and 3000 American lives, or the Committee can have a similar hearing two years from now when the cost may very well be $600 billion and 5,500 or 6,000 American lives.
That's the choice we really face today.
SEN. BIDEN: I say to my colleagues I've just been informed there's a live quorum that just began. I suggest - it's up to the Senator from Florida - he can begin his question if he'd like to do that. Or we can recess and go and I'll ask my questions last. Are you ready to go?
Well, what I'm going to do is turn the gavel over to the Senator from Florida and we'll go vote and hopefully by the time he finishes his questions, if we're not back, if he could recess for three or four minutes it will take to intervene in time. I have some questions and anyone else has any more can come back, but I'd like ten minutes with you, so - if I may.
So, I'm going to go vote. I guess others are as well, but the chair is yours, sir. And we'll be back shortly.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D-FL): So I get to completely run the -
SEN. BIDEN: You get the complete run of the committee. You can get unanimous consent for anything you want if you're the only one here. I've always enjoyed it when I was in that position. As a matter of fact, you have a lot more power than the chairman has.
SEN. NELSON: You mean I can get unanimous consent on changing the rules about seniority?
SEN. BIDEN: Yeah, you could probably do that until I come back and seek a vote on it. It's all yours.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D-FL): Well what do you all think the President meant when he said America's commitment is not open-ended?
DR. CARPENTER: I have to admit I'm a bit cynical about it. I think it is an empty threat. It is a bluff. It is an attempt to get the Maliki government to do what I think Ambassador Galbraith has demonstrated pretty clearly it is not either willing or capable to do.
And this is not going to be taken seriously by the Maliki government. They feel that we are in Iraq for the long term and that they will not respond to this kind of setting of milestones without penalties. And frankly, if you don't have very specific penalties, milestones become largely meaningless.
DR. GALBRAITH: We're not far from the day when the Maliki government might be just as happy to see us go. And one of the facts about civil war is that it can end either in power sharing, which is essentially what I'm suggesting, regionalization.
But the civil wars that have been looked at since World War II, maybe 15 percent have ended with power sharing. The other 85 percent have ended with one side winning. And who's going to win the civil war in Iraq? The Shiites are three times as numerous, they have neighboring Iran, a very power ally, and they have much larger armed forces and they control the mechanisms of the state.
The Sunnis - all the allies of the Sunnis are relatively weak states. The Saudis have money but they don't have other things. The Jordanians, they're far away. The Syrian position's a bit ambivalent. Syria's an ally of Iran and it's ruled by the Alawites, which are a Shiite sect, even though it's a Sunni majority state.
So, the outcome of the civil war, the alternative to power sharing and regionalization is a Shiite victory and that in turn might well lead to the genocide that Dr. Kagan has warned about. But from the point of view of the Maliki government, yes, if the U.S. leaves maybe that isn't the end of the world.
DR. KAGAN: Senator, I think that - I disagree with the notion that the Iraqis think that we're staying there forever. I think on the contrary that the Iraqi Shiite for the most part decided some time ago that we were going to be out quickly. And I believe that the Iraqi Sunni Arabs have also decided that we are on the way out.
And I believe that the various intelligence estimates that we heard at the end of last year suggest that a number of these groups already were ready to do their victory dances because they think that they've defeated us and that we will be shortly leaving.
And I think that we have seen the beginning of a dominance dance in Iraq already as rival Shia groups begin to position themselves for a contest that they expect to occur within their own community over which Shia group will run a Shia-dominated Iraq.
I don't think that the problem is convincing the Iraqis that we're going to leave at some point. I think that the Iraqis expect us to leave shortly. And I don't think that the Maliki government has been failing to do what it is that we want them to do because they think that we're going to be there forever and that that's a good thing.
I think that they have not been doing what we wanted them to do in the first instance in many cases because they were incapable of it because we were expecting of them things that were unreasonable and the standards that we have set for what we want the Iraqi security forces to be able to do by themselves I thought have been unreasonable for a long time, which is why I think that it's very important that the President come forward with a plan that recognizes the limitations of those forces and the importance of having American forces in the lead.
I recognize that's not what he said, but that is what we recommended and I believe that that would be the appropriate way to approach this problem.
There's been a lot of talk about incentivizing the Iraqi government, and I have to confess that I have a problem with a lot of the conversation because what we're really proposing to incentivize them with is the threat of unleashing complete genocide on the Iraqi people by pulling out and allowing the civil war to escalate unchecked and making no effort to restrain it. I find that to be a some what ambivalent ethical position to take to say that if you don't do what we say, we're going to allow you to plunge into this horrible abyss.
It also is a strange position to take toward a government that we wish to regard as an allied government that our notion of incentivizing them is hurling repeated threats of such catastrophe at them.
I think it's worth discussing what we could do to incentivize the Maliki government, either positively or negatively. But I don't think that it's appropriate for us to throw threats at them that we will simply withdraw in spite of our concern for them, in spite of our ethical position and in spite of our interests simply as a way of attempting to compel them to do the things that we think that they need to do.
SEN. NELSON: What are your expectations of the Maliki government and when?
DR. KAGAN: I expect that the Maliki government will in the first instance tolerate the operation that we are proposing and they have already shown that they will tolerate it.
I expect them to send Iraqi forces to assist in it and they have already begun to do that as General Pace testified earlier in the day. I expect that to continue, although I frankly expect to be disappointed by the number of troops that actually show up as we regularly have been. But I expect them to show up in greater numbers than they have before.
I expect them to cooperate with us actively as we work to establish security for their people in the capital and I expect as that security proceeds that they will begin to make important strides in the direction of the reconciliation initiatives that are going to be so important to the long-term settlement of this conflict.
I do expect them to undertake those things. I expect that the process will be arduous, there will be setbacks and there will be disappointments -
SEN. NELSON: So, you think it will meet the President's test?
DR. KAGAN: I believe that we will be able to attain a stable and secure state in Iraq.
SEN. NELSON: Well, I hope you're right, but I don't believe it. And that's my impression.
AMBASSADOR GALBRAITH: Mr. Chairman -
SEN. NELSON: And my impression is that increased troops in Anbar province will help, but not in Baghdad.
Mr. Galbraith -
AMBASSADOR GALBRAITH: Yes, one of the things that one might - well, I'll tell you what I expect from this from the Maliki government, I expect it to say what it wants us to hear and I don't expect it to do very many of those things at all.
Perhaps the best example of this is the repeated statement that militias are incompatible with the functioning of a democratic Iraq, which the Prime Minister says and then does precisely nothing about the militias.
And that is not because he's weak, that's not because he's dependent on the Satr's for support, it is because he is part of that system. And the character of the government perhaps was best demonstrated in the manner in which it executed Saddam Hussein; cutting off an on-going trial for genocide over the opposition of the Kurds. A case that involved 1,000 times as many dead, but did not involve (inaudible) overriding the Iraqi constitutional principles of procedures by not getting the signatures of the presidents and then having an execution which was carried out in part by the militia from the (inaudible) army.
That wasn't incompetence, that was the way it is.
SEN. NELSON: Mr. Carpenter, just a minute, and then I'm going to have to run to make this vote.
DR. CARPENTER: I would take the position roughly midpoint between what Ambassador Galbraith has said and what Dr. Kagan has said.
I think the Maliki government will participate with some vigor in operations to crack down on the Sunni insurgents in Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad and it will do little or nothing when it comes to operations to crack down on the Shiite militias.
This is a sectarian government, as much as the Bush administration really doesn't want to admit that reality. And it is a participant in the on-going civil war; it is not a neutral arbiter. We have to understand that point.
What I worry about is the American troops increasingly being imbedded with Iraqi security forces. I think that was one of the worst proposals of the Iraq study group and unfortunately it's one of the main things the Bush administration has adopted.
One of the reasons we embed on the --
SEN. NELSON: Why? Why on the embedding?
DR. CARPENTER: Why they adopted it or why -
SEN. NELSON: Why do you disagree with the embedding?
DR. CARPENTER: I think one of the reasons that we've been able to keep casualty rates relatively low is that -
SEN. NELSON: Okay. So, you think it would increase American casualties?
DR. CARPENTER: It makes them more and more vulnerable. They're going to be dependent on their security on their Iraqi counterparts.
SEN. NELSON: Okay, the committee will stand in recess subject to the call of the chair. Thank you all very much.
SEN. BIDEN: The reason why Senator Lugar and I hung around over there is we were told there was going to be an immediate vote and it still probably won't occur until tomorrow morning. But, I apologize. Gentlemen, the reason I asked you to stay is I've been impressed with what you've written in the past and how cogent your arguments are for your various positions.
And as I said earlier, one of the things that I - my intention, along with Chairman Lugar is to try to as thoroughly and as clearly lay out for our colleagues what options bright people think exist out there, because I don't think any one of us would suggest there's any "good" answer left.
I know what each of you are proposing is not what you would do if you could wave a wand and come to a - what you would think would be the best outcome for Iraq and for the United States.
But let me start off with a broad question and ask each of you to respond to in any order and that is - tell me, if you will, and this may be a way to meet my objective of trying to focus for my colleagues and for me, the alternatives.
How does what you are proposing differ and why from what the President proposed? In other words, maybe starting with you, Dr. Kagan. I read your report, Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq. I may be mistaken, but it seems as though what the President proposed has the elements of what you proposed, but not, if I may, the weight of how you proposed it.
And you very clearly lay out that the first stage in the process are the Sunni neighborhoods. If I'm not mistaken, is it 19 or - you list the specific number -
DR. KAGAN: Twenty-three, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Twenty-three. Then Sadr City, then Anbar province, then - which makes sense to me. I mean, if you're going to adopt the proposal or if you think the best outcome and the way to achieve it is to surge force, you have, in my view, the most thoroughly honest in the sense of laying out from beginning to end what you think has to happen for there to be success.
And so why don't we start as succinctly as you can, but take the time you need. Tell me how - and I'm not looking for you to criticize the President. I'm just trying to understand - everybody understand where the gaps are so that when they take a look, they know what they're talking about, what's being said.
Tell me how what you have proposed in broad strokes or as specific as you can get is different than what we - not just what we heard last night, but what the actual plan, which obviously the President didn't have a chance to go into every jot and tittle of his plan - how it differs as best you know it.
DR. KAGAN: Mr. Chairman, I thank you very much for your kind remarks about our report and also for the opportunity to speak with you about this.
I will answer your question directly, but I would like to offer a couple of caveats. First of all, I don't feel like I know what the President's plan is in any great detail. We can look at some -
SEN. BIDEN: I'm not sure either.
DR. KAGAN: And I'd also like to make the point that we are going to have apparently a change of command in Iraq shortly from General Casey to General Petraeus, I hope, the man whom I have a tremendous amount of respect.
SEN. BIDEN: I share your view about Petraeus.
DR. KAGAN: And when General Petraeus takes command, he will have to look at the situation afresh and develop a plan that he's going to be comfortable executing. He's certainly not simply going to take the plan that has been developed before he got there and execute it. So I would expect to see some changes even in the plan that has been outlined so far when the actual commander gets there. That would be normal.
Having said that, I think that the plan that the President outlined in so far as he did is similar to ours in its large aspects, apparently differs from ours in some more tactical details, which I think are extremely important.
He did say that he would change the strategy and that he would change the mission of U. S. forces in Iraq from having the primary goal of training and transitioning to having the primary goal of establishing security. And I think that's a terrifically important change in strategy. It is the one that we recommended.
And I'd like to make a point that people are focusing on the number of additional troops that will be sent in as being the delta between what we've been doing and what we will be doing. And that's actually not right.
We have already something like 20,000 or 25,000 American soldiers in and around Baghdad. They have not had it as their primary mission to establish and maintain security in Baghdad for most of the time. That will now become their mission.
So we're actually talking about an increase of more like 40,000 or 50,000 American soldiers dedicated to this mission over what we've had previously. And so the change is actually rather more significant than people have been focusing on. And that is in accord with what we recommended.
He did say that he would send five additional combat brigades to Baghdad as rapidly as they can get there. And that is also what we recommended and that is the size of the force that we recommended.
There's been some confusion because of the way the administration has presented numbers to match the brigades and I believe that that has to do with - there are different ways of counting how many troops there are in a brigade, so we gave a total force increment for Iraq of 35,000. The President is talking about 20-some thousand. I think that's a difference in counting more than anything else because we recommended five additional Army brigades and two additional Marine regimental combat teams. The President said that it would be five American brigades and one regimental combat team.
So, the forces that he's proposing are very parallel in size to the forces that we proposed. And we think it's very important to have all of those forces and if it were me, I would continue to fight for the additional regimental combat team as well because I think it's important to have reserves available for this operation.
Now the President did say that the Iraqis would be in the lead. He did talk about our forces supporting them and he did talk about increasing the number of our forces imbedded in Iraqi units conducting these operations. Those statements are not in accord with what we had recommended.
We believe that in the first instance this has to be an American- led operation simply because there are not enough Iraqi forces and they are not trained adequately. And so that is an area of divergence.
SEN. BIDEN: If I can interrupt for a moment. We heard testimony yesterday from a counterpart of yours, different organization, Mr. O'Hanlan, and asked him how many "politically reliable," not just trained, but "politically-reliable" combat forces he thought were available from the Iraqi side right now. And he gave a number of 5,000.
What is your sense of the number of available trained Iraqi forces that could be "counted upon" to fill the mission you have envisioned for us?
DR. KAGAN: I'm sorry to say that it's not really possible to answer that question with any degree of precision because I'm not sure that that knowledge actually exists.
SEN. BIDEN: Well quite frankly, I would have been disappointed had you given me a number because I share your view. I don't know how anybody knows that number.
DR. KAGAN: And that's why when we sat down to look at this operation, we attempted to design an operation that could succeed even with a very low level of Iraqi participation.
SEN. BIDEN: Got you.
DR. KAGAN: We think that the Iraqi participation is important not so much because it will provide bodies, but because we need to have an Iraqi face on the operation as much as possible and the Iraqis to interact with their own populations as much as possible with our forces present, but we are not relying on large numbers of Iraqi forces coming and we certainly do not want them to be operating on their own.
SEN. BIDEN: Quite frankly, that's how I read - that was my reading of your report. The second thing is that leads me to this point that I hope I don't come across as being cynical here, but I believe the reason why the President and his team rejected Maliki's plan, which was you Americans stay outside the city, we'll go in, you essentially reinforce us is that they feared one of two things, probably both: that they would not be competent to do the job and they would essentially be Shia - I don't want to be too - Shia forces cleansing Sunni areas.
And that what we'd be doing is indirectly giving a green light to what would be further sectarian violence rather than eliminating sectarian violence.
DR. KAGAN: Mr. Chairman, of course, I don't know the details of the plan that Maliki presented or why the administration -
SEN. BIDEN: All I know is what was characterized by -
DR. KAGAN: I understand. If I had been presented with such a plan by the government I would have opposed it on more or less precisely those grounds.
SEN. BIDEN: Yes, okay. And you mentioned Tal Afar as an example in your report and I think you did in your statement.
And in 2005 we had roughly 5000 American forces with some Iraqi forces. The 5,000 American forces, if memory serves me, in a city in a population of about 200,000.
We're talking about - and I understand your point; I think it's a fair point. There are roughly 25,000 American forces in and around Baghdad with a mission other than the one that's now being assigned it. So it's arguably - it's intellectually creditable to say that since the mission is being changed, the multiplier effect here is add those 25,000 that have been there to the 15 or 16 or 17 - whatever the number comes to - the President's total of 21,500 and - at least that's what the Secretary said today - for going to Anbar.
So let's saying you're adding on top of that - you're talking roughly - you could argue 40,000 folks with a new mission. Because I was wondering how you get to the counter-insurgency ratio that most of the military people with whom I've spoken as far back as two year ago when General O'Donovan who was then number two, who was very frustrated that he wasn't getting the support - the number of troops he needed. And his talking about Anbar province - I remember him saying and I'm paraphrasing that every officer learns in war college that the ratio needs to be ...and then he named it and said not 100:1, not 150:1, and so on.
So, if you were to use you numbers in the multiplier of my word of - since it's a different mission arguing you actually have more people moving here is in the 25,000 range already. Then I assume that's how you make your argument that the counter-insurgency ratio required is closer to what is taught at the academies and war college and than it otherwise would be.
DR. KAGAN: Yes, Mr. Chairman. I think if you look at the population of the area that we were proposing to clear and hold in the first instance, it's something under 2 million, which would call for a force ration of between 40, 50,000 in order to meet that. And that is the force ratio that our plan would bring into that area because we would make full use of the forces that are already there and this increment.
SEN. BIDEN: Now the difference - one last difference and I will not belabor this but this is helpful to me.
One further apparent difference is the President said last night, and I asked the Secretary today and others did as well, that they are not limiting this effort to the 23 neighborhoods. And I don't know whether they answered the question for political reasons or substantively is correct - I'm not which.
When it was asked do they have the green light to go into Sadr City, do they have the green light to deal with the militia? The answer was yes, that would be the case.
But it is your understanding that the first phase or phase the President's talking about or Petraeus may be talking about is to only focus on is more in line with your plan? Only focus on the 23 neighborhoods, 2 million people, as opposed to the totality of Baghdad and 6-plus million people?
DR. KAGAN: Mr. Chairman, we've been explicit on a number of occasions that our plan does see in the initial phase focusing on the 23 Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods and not going into Sadr City in the first instance.
Now that was predicated on a number of assumptions about the difficulty that would be entailed in going into Sadr City in part assuming that the Maliki government would not be forthcoming with support for doing that.
If in fact the Maliki government is going to be forthcoming with that support, then that would change the equation, but we have not had the opportunity to go back and re-evaluate what our force ratio assumptions would be in that circumstance.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, I respectfully suggest if that is the case, the force ratios are a little out of whack and you're going to be dealing with a different situation.
Last question on this point and again I have so many questions - it's a temptation to keep you here all night - all of you: where Petraeus has been successful and he had been in the past, north of Baghdad, in dealing with an insurgency, it's been an insurgency, as opposed to sectarian strife in a civil war.
Say it another way: in a mixed neighborhood in Baghdad is different than going into Tal Afar where the insurgency are the former Baathists, Saddamists, etcetera., and/or al Qaeda and their target being us and/or government troops.
When you go into a neighborhood, and I want the public to understand we're not talking about neighborhood of 500 people; we're talking about neighborhoods that are tens of thousands of people. You're going into a neighborhood where the problem is within the neighborhood, if it's a mixed neighborhood, people are figuratively speaking crossing the street killing each other and/or if it's not an integrated neighborhood, primarily a Shia neighborhood, you have death squads wearing uniforms and/or the Mahdi militia coming in and taking them out, that's a little different circumstance than dealing with an insurgency, isn't it?
DR. KAGAN: Mr. Chairman, I have to respectfully disagree with your premise. Tal Afar actually is a mixed city. It is mixed Sunni/Shia. It's also mixed between Arab and Turkmen and Kurd and all of those factions were in fact shooting at one another. And H. R. McMaster, the commander of the unit that cleared Tal Afar in 2005, has described in great detail there would be circumstances where Sunni snipers would climb turrets, fire into Shia neighborhoods to commit casualties and then those same Sunni snipers would actually climb down, cross over into the Shia neighborhoods and fire back into the Sunni neighborhoods to commit atrocities in precisely the same sort of effort to incite sectarian civil war within Tal Afar.
And so it actually was very similar to what's going on in Baghdad -
SEN. BIDEN: Had the Samara Mosque been taken out at that point?
DR. KAGAN: No, Mr. Chairman, it hadn't. And even so, there was this very high level of inter-sectarian violence and in addition to that the Sunni insurgents had established real strong holds in Tal Afar.
They had video booths where they would tape their messages and beheadings. I mean they had a real professional apparatus and were ready to receive us.
Because we've been operating continually in a lot of the Baghdad neighborhoods that we're talking about going into, in most of those areas they don't have anything like the same degree of preparation.
But no, I think we already have seen success in dealing with this sort of sectarian conflict.
SEN. BIDEN: Last question for you, if I may. We heard this morning about the successes that are taking place in Anbar province according to the Secretary. And she cited that certain of the tribal chiefs very upset with the Al Qaeda have sent their sons to Jordan to be trained to come back ostensibly and be resistance to Al Qaeda intervention and I suspect to not be as cooperative with the insurgency, the former Saddamists and Baathists.
Can you tell me if you know anything about that?
DR. KAGAN: Mr. Chairman, only what I've seen in newspapers and what I've heard about.
I mean it does appear that some of the sheiks in Anbar have become frustrated with the ongoing civil war and I think it's very important to understand that the Sunni-Arab insurgency is not monolithic either.
And there is divergence in views even within the Islamist wing. Al Qaeda in Iraq says that it's okay to kill Iraqi civilians. Ansar al-Sunnah has taken the position often that it isn't. There are disputes among these groups about tactics, techniques, goals and so forth and I think what we're seeing in Anbar province is the beginning of a splintering of this movement.
Now I think if we continue the process of establishing security to make it possible for these guys to participate more directly and if the Maliki government will reach out in the situation of improving security to offer if necessary a reconciliation to bring them into the fold, I think it's possible that we can see significant political progress.
SEN. BIDEN: Question for the three of you and you need not answer it if you choose not to: if you had to take a bet, how many of you would bet that Maliki is the prime minister this time in November of this year?
DR. CARPENTER: I think the answer to that question, Mr. Chairman, depends very much on whether we are serious about pressing the Maliki government to take on the Shiite militias and to neutralize Muktada al Sadr.
If we are serious about that, I think that places him in an almost impossible position and that that will severely undercut his political base. It would make it very likely that he would not be prime minister by November.
If this is merely a rhetorical flourish on the part of the Bush administration and this is substantive of the way - an effort to go after the Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad and to suppress the Sunni insurgency and the talk of going after the Shia militia is just political cover, then I think Maliki may be a skillful enough politician to survive and be prime minister at the end of the year.
SEN. BIDEN: Ambassador?
AMBASSADOR GALBRAITH: I think Dr. Carpenter's analysis is good as any.
The problem is that the Maliki government rests on a narrow margin within the Italaf, within the Shiite alliance. Obviously in the battle between Mehdi and Jafre (ph), Jafre -- Jafre prevailed by one vote, and other elements, notably the Kurds, but perhaps some of the Sunnis might well prefer Mehdi to Maliki.
And indeed the Bush administration may tire of Maliki because in some sense he's not much more effective than Jafre, maybe lacks some of Jafre's annoying personal traits, but as a leader he hasn't been much more effective.
The problem is that my view is that no matter who you put in there we're going to get tired of them because they're not going to be effective because they don't have the agenda that we want them to have and they don't exercise the power that we wish they would.
SEN. BIDEN: Mr. Ambassador, one of the things that - let me just ask - in your partition scenario, what happens to Iraqi's oil wealth?
AMBASSADOR GALBRAITH: Well the Iraqis actually are on the verge of concluding a deal that will at least for some period of time share the oil wealth on the basis of population.
That has actually never been a central issue. The central issue has been who controls the oil fields? And that has been central for the Kurds and it's central for at least some of the Shiites because the Kurds and - as I said to a lesser extent the Shiites - do not want to go back to the situation where Baghdad cuts the check and Baghdad has all the power.
Like any federal system, frankly, they understand that it works only when there are local sources of revenue. But in terms of how that revenue is distributed, there is a broad consensus to share it. Now if Iraq does not hold together as a state then -
SEN. BIDEN: Under your scenario it's not a state, correct?
AMBASSADOR GALBRAITH: Well my view is that over the long term it will not survive as a single state, which incidentally doesn't mean that I think it's going to split into three states.
Both Sunnis and Shiites, if you ask them, they would say, yes, we're Iraqis. The trouble is they have such radically different visions of what that means that I believe it is better to do what the Shiites want to do and what the Sunnis still resists, which is to have their own regions.
But that's really a decision for the Sunnis to make. The Kurds it's entirely different. They don't want to be part of Iraq -
SEN. BIDEN: I got that about the Kurds. What I get down to is that it's - my concern is that I don't see absent - essentially letting this civil war rage from Anbar province down through Basra and let the outcome dictate who runs the show in those two areas.
Short of that, I don't know what's left for the Sunnis. I mean, if they end up with three different states, in effect, the inclination to share oil ain't gonna be around and there's nothing there - there in Anbar province.
AMBASSADOR GALBRAITH: Well first just to comment; if the Kurds actually leave, they will take with them approximately the amount of oil that's the same with their population.
That's the same with their population, so that's not a big issue. So the issue is in Arab Iraq. Will the Shiites be prepared to give to the Sunni region a percentage that is equal to the Sunni percentage of the population?
I don't know the answer to that. Right now the Shiites have agreed to such a formula. Whether they'll stick with it - I guess what I would say to you is that if this continues and with civil war, and if the civil war intensifies, the chances that the Shiites, who I believe will prevail in the civil war ultimately, will then be generous toward the Sunnis is not likely. And in fact, it can have a very bad ending.
And that is why as between the Sunni - with Arab Iraq - I believe that the plan that I put forward and that you had put forward is the only way to go. It is a plan that protects the Sunnis by allowing them to have their own region, to provide for their own security, which I believe it at least provides a chance of taking on al Qaeda and at this stage, if it's implemented soon, there is enough political will there to guarantee them a share of revenue. Not by changing the Iraqi constitution, which is difficult to change as our own, but by legislation which has already been agreed.
But if this doesn't happen, if this spins out another year of civil war, another two years, I think it's unlikely.
SEN. BIDEN: One of the things I want to get straight here to make sure I understand it. The legislation that's already agreed to is agreed to in principle by a committee, a group of people meeting. There has not been any legislation introduced, there has not been any legislation passed, there has not - am I correct in that?
The Iraqi parliament has not passed any legislation saying that - I remember I was - over the 4th of July I met with Mr. Maliki in his office and I asked him about tuitions - one was for federation or regionalism as their constitution calls for, and the second was about allocation of oil revenues.
He said, oh, the constitution has already taken care of that. I said, well, with all due respect, Mr. Prime Minister, you and I be the only two who have read the constitution. It doesn't say that. It says 'equitable share,' or some such language, but there's no guarantee what that means. He said, there's no need for that.
So I just want to be clear that whether or not there is - if you know that there is or is about to be introduced - legislation that the tribal chiefs and the tribal leaders in Anbar province can say, I know I'm now going to get 20 percent of the revenue.
AMBASSADOR GALBRAITH: Well, the legislation that is pending at the moment is an oil law. And it's a very complicated law that involves some - I mean, it's one thing to say, for example, as the constitution does, that the regions have control over new oil. But to implement that in terms of -
SEN. BIDEN: Very hard.
AMBASSADOR GALBRAITH: Pipelines and everything else - so this does it. And it is mostly agreed. There are some issues still between Kurdistan and Arab Iraq, but there's a good chance that they'll be resolved.
It also includes the provisions for revenue sharing, which however will be done in a separate law.
And the problem is this: the Sunnis do not consider 20 percent to be their share of the population and they don't consider it therefore to be their share of the oil wealth. And furthermore until 2003, they got 70 to 80 percent of the oil wealth -
SEN. BIDEN: Oh, I know that -
AMBASSADOR GALBRAITH: So, 20 percent is - even if we think it's fair, they don't think it's fair.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, it's amazing how peoples' attitudes change when faced with the realistic alternatives they may face.
In my meeting with major oil executives, not just American-based companies but foreign-based companies, I don't understand why three years ago the President didn't bring in the major informed elements of the three communities and say, look, listen to these guys. They're not going to invest the $40 billion you need to develop your fields unless you have a national oil policy, unless you have some reason to make them believe you're going to be able to do this with out any real prospect of them being blown up. But, that goes another way.
Let me ask another question and I won't keep you much longer. Up until recently, I'm not sure what I think right now, but up until recently I have come away from my visits to Iraq with the following sense of things.
That from 2004, early 2005 up until mid-2006, the Kurds although overwhelmingly wanting independence reached the tentative conclusion that if they seek independence or if the nation falls apart and they are able to declare themselves independent because there is an all-out civil war, that they are not about to give up on Kirkuk and the Turks aren't about to let them have their way in Kirkuk.
And that although on the one hand they would look like they're in pretty good shape, they would be inviting both the Iranians and the Turks to come after them. And so it's better for them to be in a position where this gets played out over a longer haul as long as they're able to maintain the autonomy they now have.
And that the Sunnis - at least the tribal leadership has reached the conclusion they're not going to be in control like they were - having 70 percent of the oil, 90 percent of the power, etcetera- in their lifetimes - and it's better to work out some accommodation where at least they're secure as long as they actually have a source of revenue.
And the Shia, although they now have met their expectation and desire to be the dominant political force, acts in some kind of ultimate arrangement, they're not going to be in a position to be able to prevent "their mosque" from being blowing up over the next decade and more.
And so there was the possibility of a political accommodation. But I'm not sure that prevails anymore because in talking to these folks, I think the Shia think they can take out the Sunnis. The Sunnis think they can take out the Shia and the Kurds think they can probably negotiate - literally negotiate their independent status without having a full-blown conflict with the Turks and the Iranians.
Give me your sense of what the mindset in your view is. And I realize that the Shia-on-Shia, as well as Shia-on-Sunni and so - I realize there will be competition within a Shia region if it were to be voted. I think that's one of the reasons why Sadr sided with the Sunnis in voting against the legislation to allow for the regional system to come into play over 18 months from now.
But how do you think they view their equities? Each of the major parties in an all-out conflict?
DR. KAGAN: I think we need to address that question in two ways because I think right - there is - how they feel about that now and there's the question of how they would feel about that if we actually could get the security situation under control.
Because I think it's not possible to over-estimate the impact that the current violence has on everyone's attitudes and also that everyone's beliefs about our intentions have on their attitudes.
I think that current Shia attitudes are heavily fueled by the fact that the Sunni insurgency is not under control and they're under continual attack and by the belief that we are not going to bring the Sunni insurgency under control and that we are in fact going to leave shortly, which I do believe is their actual mindset, or had been to this point.
Now if we make is clear that we actually are going to bring the Sunni insurgency under control and we are going to provide them with a basic level of security and therefore we're going to eliminate the need for them to go out and do that on their own, which does pose significant challenges and costs to them.
And I think we should keep that in mind. I think that as much as Maliki might lean in that direction, if no other solution is presented to him, he does have to recognize that even a Shia victory in that context will be unutterably bloody for him and will impose all sorts of costs on his government and on different factions within the Shia groups will compromise their ability to form a subsequent and stable government and so forth and will lead to perennial instability.
So, I think the issue is how will they feel about that when we have offered them an alternative? When we have made it clear that we are going to bring the Sunni insurgency under control and that they don't have to do that. I believe that that will change their attitudes pretty fundamentally.
Now I believe in addition to that there is evidence, especially as you brought up in Anbar from among the tribal sheiks and elsewhere, and even from things that I hear from my former students who are now in Baghdad and who tell me about popular attitudes that they're encountering as they patrol the streets and some of them actually are living in the neighborhoods now, among the Sunni.
And there is some evidence, I think, that this - there is beginning to be a weariness of this conflict and a willingness to end it a more reasonable way if they could be assured that they were not going to be under continual attack by Shia militias.
And so I think the issue is we have to be able to imagine what Iraq looks like when we have brought the violence in the mixed areas of Baghdad actually under control.
I believe we can. We can have argument about whether we can or not, but if we do, then that will change the political equation very fundamentally, in my view.
SEN. BIDEN: That's the basic premise of your position?
DR. KAGAN: Yeah, exactly.
DR. CARPENTER: Mr. Chairman?
SEN. BIDEN: Yes?
DR. CARPENTER: I think that's the crux of the disagreement. I do not believe there is a realistic prospect that we can achieve a secure environment that we can suppress the Sunni insurgency. At least that we can do so at anything resembling a reasonable cost in terms of blood and treasure to our own country.
Yes, if we occupied Iraq with a very large army, 4 or 500,000 troops, and were willing stay for many, many years. We would have a chance of stabilizing the security environment.
But we don't have that option. I don't think there would be one American in 20 who would favor paying the price that would be required to achieve that result.
Absent that result, what we're seeing in Iraq is this on-going civil war where the Shia have concluded this is their moment. This is when they can reverse decades, generations, of subjugation by the Sunnis. They are not going to pass up that opportunity and they are not likely to be gentle when they do achieve full power.
The Sunnis increasingly are in defensive mode rather than having as the primary objective driving American forces out of Iraq, it is the terrible fear that if they don't forestall the establishment of a Shia-dominated government on a permanent basis that they are faced with at best massive discrimination, third-class citizenship in their own country and at worst, on-going ethnic cleansing and terrible consequences in that regard.
The Kurds are off with their own agenda. I think what we're going to see I Kurdistan become the Taiwan of that part of the world. It will be an independent country in everything except extensive international diplomatic recognition, but it will be an independent country.
The danger for the Kurds is what you have identified: that they could over-reach if they insist on gaining the oil riches in and around Kirkuk. They create the risk of outside intervention, certainly by Turkey, perhaps by Iran.
Where we can play a constructive role there is to convince Turkey especially that this would be an unwise move. That it is, in fact, in Turkey's best interest to have a stable, democratic, Kurdistan-as-a- buffer between Turkey and what is likely to be chaos stand in the rest of Iraq.
That is again and achievable objective, I think, if we work hard at it. And Kurdistan may be able to have a reasonable stable and peaceful existence. The rest of Iraq is going to be a cauldron of chaos unless we are will to pay a huge price over a very long term in both blood and treasure.
AMBASSADOR GALBRAITH: First, I think I agree with what Dr. Carpenter has just said so I won't repeat it.
But I agree with your point that the space for political compromise has diminished, perhaps disappeared. But the fundamental problem is this, and it is that the Shiites define - what you have in Iraq, Maliki is a democratically-elected leader. He reflects his constituency, which define Iraq as a Shiite state.
And for the Sunnis there is no way - even those who despise the insurgency - that they can accept that definition of Iraq. It does not include them. And of course many of them see - as Saddam Hussein sat on the gallows - they see the Shiites as alien - as the Persians.
And so these other fixes are not oil-revenue sharing are not going to get the - satisfy the Sunnis.
With regard to the Kurds, they're basically - my view is very simple and it's certainly influenced by my experience in the Balkans, which is where you have people who unanimously don't want to be part of a state, you can only keep them in that state by brute force.
Now the fortunate thing about Iraq that distinguishes it from Yugoslavia is you don't have a bunch of nationalist leaders who are headstrong on immediate independence without solving the problem.
So I think there's a period of time in which the Kurds are not going to press for independence and I think what Dr. Carpenter said is right: They already have their Taiwan. And just as if Taiwan got the chance, it would declare itself independent.
When Kurdistan believe its chance will come, it will certainly take advantage of it, but it won't do things in a precipitant manner.
Final point comes then to - the one really outstanding issue for Kurdistan is what are the boundaries of Kurdistan?
And that has the potential by the end of this year to be a whole new source of violence in Iraq.
Now here is a place where the U. S. can do something diplomatically and yet has been totally absent. Why can we do something diplomatically? Because we actually have influence with the Kurds and I believe that they - part of our influence has to - one the one hand find a fair solution to this, which is doable because the lines are - you can't draw the lines, but secondly, to caution the Kurds against over-reaching because at the moment they have the upper hand.
That then leaves the issue of Kirkuk. There is in Iraq's constitution a formula for solving Kirkuk through a referendum.
Kirkuk has been a source of conflict in Iraq for the entire history of Iraq. I don't see any merit in postponing or getting rid of this provision. The issue needs to be settled.
But what can be done in advance of the referendum is to entrench power-sharing in Kirkuk among its four communities: the Kurds, the Turkmen, the Arabs and the Christians so that after the referendum none of these communities feel that they're losers.
But again, the time to do that is now. Once you have the referendum and it's part of Kurdistan, which is what I expect, or it's not, then the possibility of getting a compromise - it' too late.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, gentlemen, there is a lot more I'd like to ask you, but with your permission I'd like to be able to submit some questions for the record.
I wish I could say there would be no need to call you back, but my guess it that we'll need your advice and input several months from now as well.
And again I genuinely appreciate the amount of time, effort, expertise and commitment you've all applied to in arriving at your various positions.
I thought today's hearing, this morning's hearing, was the term is over-used to say it was historic, but I thought it was extremely significant in that it would be impossible for anyone to have listened to it this morning and not come the conclusion that there's very little support for the approach the president is pursuing. And I hope he'll be willing to adjust as he moves forward.
My prayer would be his proposal is right - it works - everything works out. That would be my prayer, but that is, I think, just that - a prayer.
Let me also note that I was informed by my staff that our bad fortune is Dr. Galbraith's good fortune and that is that Nancy Stetson who has been the senior member of this committee for a couple decades is - am I correct? (off mike) - actually our bad fortune is your missed opportunity. I thought Nancy - the note I got, to show you how smart I am, I thought it said you were joining Ambassador Galbraith. (Off mike) - you got a better offer. Well I'm getting out of this negotiation right now.
Anyway, Nancy, we're going to miss you. You've been an incredible, incredible resource for the committee and for me personally. So you'll be joining the ranks of the famous, no longer employed, Foreign Relations Committee staffers and I hope your success is as stellar as the ambassador's has been.
AMB. GALBRAITH: And if I may add, we'll be seeing her in New England, but we also expect to be seeing you.
SEN. BIDEN: Well you will be seeing me in New England. I don't know. It may be a little bit - guessing the outcome of that is probably easier than guessing the outcome of Iraq. But at any rate, I thank you all very, very much. I thank the audience for your interest here. There's a lot at stake and as I said, this has been very helpful. We will adjourn.