Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Kerry Plan for Iraq

So the choice for America is, you can have a plan that I've laid out in four points, each of which I can tell you more about or you can go to johnkerry.com and see more of it; or you have the president's plan, which is four words: more of the same.

Senator John Kerry, "First Bush-Kerry Presidential Debate", September 30, 2004

As I promised last weekend, it's time to take Senator Kerry up on his offer. The Kerry Plan for Iraq is contained in a 3 page PDF document available at the official Kerry Web site:

Winning The Peace In Iraq

All Kerry quotes are taken directly from that document.

The Kerry plan for Iraq has four main components, I will address each one of them in turn.

After insulting allies and shredding alliances, this President does not have the trust and confidence to bring others to our side in Iraq. But we must rebuild and lead strong alliances so that others will share the burden with us in Iraq and elsewhere.

There are two main problems with this part of the "Kerry Plan":

1.Despite what Senator Kerry says, we're not going it alone in Iraq.

-30 countries with over 25,000 troops are there with us.

-NATO is now involved in training Iraqi security forces.

-The UN is also playing a role.

2. There's no evidence to suggest that a Kerry Administration would be able to get any additional countries involved in Iraq.

-The French and Germans have stated unequivocally that they have no intention of sending forces to Iraq. Even Kerry has now admitted this.

-Not only will they not send troops, but our French "allies" in whom Kerry puts so much stock have said they will participate in a proposed meeting on Iraq only if the withdrawal of US forces is on the agenda, and the Iraqi "insurgents" are invited to attend. This should make abundantly clear that France's only agenda in Iraq is securing an American defeat.

-Kerry's rhetorical defeatism regarding Iraq is hardly likely to encourage additional nations to participate. After all, who wants to sign up for a "quagmire"?

-Finally, Kerry has labeled those allies who have stood with us in Iraq as a "coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought, and the extorted." In particular, Kerry has insulted interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, and offended our loyal ally Poland. This is the "nuanced diplomacy" that will make America "more respected in the world"? How could a President Kerry expect to win over additional allies when he insults the ones we already have.

In short, we already have international support in Iraq, and it is very unlikely that a Kerry Administration would be able to add to the current level.

Moving on to part two of the Kerry plan:

Last February, Secretary Rumsfeld claimed that more than 210,000 Iraqis were in uniform. Two weeks ago, he admitted that claim was off by more than 50 percent. Iraq, he said, now has 95,000 trained security forces. Neither number bears any relationship to the facts. By the administration’s own minimal standards, just 5,000 soldiers have been fully trained. And of the 32,000 police now in uniform, not one has completed a 24-week field-training program..

Increasing the training of Iraqi security forces is an excellent suggestion. So good, in fact, it is already being implemented. As Lt. General David H. Petraeus, who is in charge of training and equipping Iraqi forces, wrote in the September 26 Washington Post:

Helping organize, train and equip nearly a quarter-million of Iraq's security forces is a daunting task. Doing so in the middle of a tough insurgency increases the challenge enormously, making the mission akin to repairing an aircraft while in flight -- and while being shot at. Now, however, 18 months after entering Iraq, I see tangible progress. Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up.


In recent months, I have observed thousands of Iraqis in training and then watched as they have conducted numerous operations. Although there have been reverses -- not to mention horrific terrorist attacks -- there has been progress in the effort to enable Iraqis to shoulder more of the load for their own security, something they are keen to do. The future undoubtedly will be full of difficulties, especially in places such as Fallujah. We must expect setbacks and recognize that not every soldier or policeman we help train will be equal to the challenges ahead.

Nonetheless, there are reasons for optimism. Today approximately 164,000 Iraqi police and soldiers (of which about 100,000 are trained and equipped) and an additional 74,000 facility protection forces are performing a wide variety of security missions. Equipment is being delivered. Training is on track and increasing in capacity. Infrastructure is being repaired. Command and control structures and institutions are being reestablished.

Most important, Iraqi security forces are in the fight -- so much so that they are suffering substantial casualties as they take on more and more of the burdens to achieve security in their country. Since Jan. 1 more than 700 Iraqi security force members have been killed, and hundreds of Iraqis seeking to volunteer for the police and military have been killed as well.


There will be more tough times, frustration and disappointment along the way. It is likely that insurgent attacks will escalate as Iraq's elections approach. Iraq's security forces are, however, developing steadily and they are in the fight. Momentum has gathered in recent months. With strong Iraqi leaders out front and with continued coalition -- and now NATO -- support, this trend will continue. It will not be easy, but few worthwhile things are.

The full piece provides some valuable details, as does this October 7 assessment from the Council on Foreign Relations:

The Iraqi army has 12,699 soldiers on duty. Of those, 4,789, or 38 percent, were trained. The army is slated to have a total of 27,000 fully trained soldiers by April 1, 2005, according to Pentagon targets.

The Iraqi National Guard, which works alongside U.S. forces on counterinsurgency and other operations, has 40,351 men on duty. Of those, almost all—38,338—are classified as trained. The Pentagon aims to have 62,000 trained guard troops by April 1, 2005.
The army also has two new counterinsurgency units: the Iraqi Prevention Force, with 1,928 trained soldiers, and an Iraqi special operations force, with 581 trained soldiers.

The Iraqi police has 84,950 police on duty. Forty-two percent, or 35,295, are classified as trained, but only about 10 percent of them have gone through a formal, eight-week course at a police academy. The Iraqi Police Service is scheduled to have 135,000 members by June 1, 2005.

There are 16,798 border guards on duty, 14,313 of whom are classified as trained. The Department of Border Enforcement aims to have 32,000 personnel trained by November 2004; it is likely to miss that target.

There’s also a fledgling air force with 143 trained personnel, and a coastal defense force with 282 trained troops. These services are targeted to have only 900 total troops.

Not only is the number of trained Iraqi units growing, they are beginning to prove themselves in the field, as this October 8 article from the Associated Press shows:

When Iraq's 202nd National Guard Battalion faced insurgents six months ago, it simply, in the words of one American general, "evaporated." Now, the same outfit, tested in recent combat, is being touted as a vital building block of the force the United States says will increasingly replace its own troops on the front lines.

Storming into the insurgent stronghold of Samarra with the Americans, the 202nd and other Iraqi units seized two holy sites and a large industrial complex, conducting house-to-house searches and raids on militant hideouts, according to U.S. military accounts.

"The good news is that the Iraqi forces are on their feet and getting better every day," said Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the operation. "Our work to train and equip Iraqi security forces is beginning to pay off in spades."

Certainly mistakes have been made and problems have occurred during the process of creating new Iraqi security forces. Such setbacks are inevitable, as General Petraeus's comments show. Still, substantial progress has been made, and the Kerry plan offers no details on how a Kerry Administration would do any better.

The Bush administration admitted that its plan was a failure when it asked Congress for permission to radically revise spending priorities in Iraq. It took 17 months for them to understand that security is a priority; 17 months to figure out that boosting oil production is critical; 17 months to conclude that an Iraqi with a job is less likely to shoot at our soldiers. One year ago, the administration asked for and received $18 billion to help the Iraqis and relieve the conditions that contribute to the insurgency. Today, just 5 percent of those funds have actually been spent.

The Kerry/Edwards campaign has a fair point here. There have been inexcusable bureaucratic delays in the flow of reconstruction dollars to Iraq. The Bush Administration also seems to have underestimated the extent to which Saddam had allowed his country's infrastructure to deteriorate. Still, the fact that both Kerry and Edwards voted against even providing the $18 billion for Iraqi reconstruction (it was part of the famous $87 billion) undercuts the credibility of their criticism.

In spite of the difficulties and delays, there has been substantial progress made in rebuilding Iraq. The USAID Iraq Web site has the details. Among the accomplishments:

-Nearly 6,000 Megawatts of electricity is being generated per day, as opposed to 4,400 before the liberation.

-"A major wastewater treatment plant in Baghdad began operating in June of 2004; this is the first major plant in the country to operate in over 12 years."

-Over 2,400 schools nationwide have been rehabilitated.

-110 primary health care centers have been renovated.

-According to the Department of Defense's Iraq Weekly Status Report, oil production is now consistently at the average pre-war level of 2.5 million barrels per day.

In a July 1 assessment, the Council on Foreign Relations, stated that reconstruction in Iraq is "advancing slowly". Despite the difficulties caused by terrorist violence and bureaucratic delays, improvements are being made. The Kerry plan neither recognizes this reality nor offers any reason to believe that a Kerry Administration would handle affairs any better.

Credible elections are key to producing an Iraqi government that has the support of the Iraqi people and an assembly to write a Constitution that yields a viable power sharing arrangement. Because Iraqis have no experience holding free and fair elections, the President agreed six months ago that the U.N. must play a central role. Yet today, just four months before Iraqis are supposed to go to the polls, the U.N. Secretary General and administration officials themselves say the elections are in grave doubt because the security situation is so bad. Not a single country has offered troops to protect the U.N. elections mission, and the U.N. has less than 25 percent of the staff it needs in Iraq to get the job done.

Once again, the Kerry plan advocates a course of action that is already being implemented. The Bush Administration is already seeking to persuade other countries to help with security for UN election officials. The administration is also implementing a broader military and political strategy designed to stabilize the situation in time for January's elections:

"You've seen examples of the strategy in action," the official said. "You saw it in Najaf, you've seen it in Samarra and you see it in offensive military actions that are taking place now in parts of the so-called Sunni triangle," the official said, referring to U.S. military offensives.

Once you actually look at the Kerry plan, it becomes clear that it is essentially "more of the same". The plan's four points are mostly things that the Bush Administration has already done or is in the process of doing. The one partial exception to this is point one: "Internationalizing" the Iraq situation. The idea that John Kerry would be able to bring additional countries into a war he has described as a "colossal failure" and a mistake is wishful thinking at best.

The real difference in this campaign is not between the Bush and Kerry plans for Iraq: It is between the Kerry plan and the Kerry rhetoric on Iraq. When Kerry and Edwards speak of the situation there, they describe it in almost apocalyptic terms; a "mistake", a "colossal failure", a quagmire. The Bush Administration's handling of Iraq is described on the Kerry Web site as a "series of disastrous mistakes with disastrous consequences". Yet the actual Kerry plan for Iraq is little more than steps that the Bush Administration is already implementing, along with vague, unsubstantiated promises that a Kerry Administration would somehow do them better. If Iraq is really as disastrous as John Kerry says it is, then shouldn't he be offering a genuine alternative instead of "more of the same"? Either Kerry's rhetoric is disingenuous, or his "plan" is.


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