Monday, January 08, 2007

Dov Zakheim: Reposition U.S. Troops to Iraqi Borders

Former Under Secretary of Defense Dov Zakheim, in an article published in the Financial Times on January 6, argues that the U.S. should reposition its forces on Iraq's borders rather than committing more troops to Baghdad and other cities. The concerns underlying Zakheim's proposal is very much in line with some of those expressed previously on this blog. Zakheim writes that
There is no doubt that Iraq is enmeshed in a bitter civil war. The US has had minimal impact on the course of that war. Iraqi casualties continue to mount, as do the number of Iraqis who have decided to kill their fellow citizens. Americans are caught in the crossfire. They cannot stop the sectarian forces that are determined to kill one another. The US could not do so in Lebanon during the 1980s and cannot do so today in Iraq.
He argues for a shift in American priorities. Instead of fighting to achieve stability inside Iraq, the U.S. must focus on preserving stability and American interests in the region. To this end, Zakheim suggests stationing a force of two brigades (a brigade is made up of 3,000-5,000 soldiers) In Iraqi Kurdistan, two further brigades in the far west of al-Anbar on the border with Syria, and a division (10,000-20,000 troops) in the south that will guard the border with Iran.

He also argues that

The forces in Kurdistan would help forestall a Kurdish declaration of independence that would prompt a Turkish invasion. The troops in western Iraq would help prevent both terrorist infiltration into Jordan and serious incursions from Syria. They would also indicate to Damascus that it should not misinterpret a readiness to talk as a concession.

and that the division-sized force in the south would send a clear signal to Tehran.

The New Anatolian has a slightly different interpretation of Zakheim's proposal:
U.S. forces should operate from Iraq's borders to stop the country from launching attacks against its neighbors and preventing any intervention by Turkey in the north in response to a Kurdish declaration of independence, the Financial Times said on Friday.
Stationing forces on the border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey could allow both sides to save face in the case of a Kurdish declaration of independence, by setting limits on Kurdish northward aspirations and Turkish responses. However, I doubt that U.S. President Bush will adopt Zakheim's plan when he declares his new Iraq strategy. The members of this administration appear convinced that anything less than "staying the course" will be disastrous for their long-term political fortunes.

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