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Troop Surge in Iraq Must End, Analyst Says

Troop Surge in Iraq Must End, Analyst Says

UCLA Today, Oct. 10, 2007

I looked up this morning, and 17 of the 37 ministries in Iraq were vacant nobody's running them.

Korb discussed Petraeus's report at a well-attended event held in the School of Law. The discussion was moderated by Phillip Carter, a UCLA alumnus, Iraq war veteran and media commentator.

This article was first published in UCLA Today Online.

By Ajay Singh

By any reckoning, the war in Iraq is one of the most pressing global issues of the day.

On the anniversary of 9/11, the military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, testified before Congress that a recent surge in U.S. troops has helped reduce violence, marking a significant improvement in the Arab nation.

The reality, according to Lawrence J. Korb, a respected security analyst speaking at a Sept. 26 forum hosted by the Burkle Center for International Relations, is that the U.S. troop surge has failed to achieve the Bush administration's key objective in Iraq: enhancing the political transition necessary for the nation to reconcile its deep sectarian differences.

"The purpose of the surge — of any military undertaking — always has to have a strategic or political purpose," said Korb, a former U.S. assistant secretary of defense and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

The reason the Iraqi government has not undertaken the reconciliation process has little to do with violence — or the lack of it — but because it is a difficult objective and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "is not the type of leader who could bring it about."

Korb discussed Petraeus's report at a well-attended event held in the School of Law. The discussion was moderated by Phillip Carter, a UCLA alumnus, Iraq war veteran and media commentator.

The statistics that Petraeus presented before Congress to show that sectarian violence in Iraq was decreasing reminded him of another general, William Westmoreland, who told Congress in 1967 that "we were winning the war in Vietnam," Korb said. He added that a lot of other data refutes Petraeus' claim, including the Pentagon's quarterly report issued a week later, "which basically said that violence was low before the surge and it's going up now."

If anything, the surge has retarded Iraq's political process, Korb said, adding: "I looked up this morning, and 17 of the 37 ministries in Iraq were vacant — nobody's running them."

To move ahead in Iraq, the surge must end, Korb emphasized. And when it does, it won't be because of what's happening in Iraq but rather what's happening to the U.S. military.

"We cannot keep this number of troops in Iraq with the size of the military we have without doing more damage to the military," Korb said, noting that the tours of soldiers sent to Iraq are 15 months long, compared to only 12 months for soldiers who fought in Vietnam and Korea.

"The policy is supposed to be that for every month you spend in a combat zone, you get at least two at home," said Korb. "When Congress tried to legislate that last week, the Pentagon and the administration fought against it."

The Iraqi government needs to set a specific date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, Korb said. He outlined a "strategic re-deployment" plan that would ensure the troops can leave safely and efficiently in 10 to 12 months. In the meantime, the United States can remain involved in Iraq from its facilities in the Persian Gulf and simultaneously push for a "diplomatic surge" on the Iraq issue.

"Not only does this galvanize the Iraqi government, but by saying you're going to get out completely, you undermine the case of those, particularly in the Muslim world, who say we came to occupy Iraq … for oil," Korb said.

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