The Iraq Study Group (ISG) released its long-awaited report on Iraq two weeks ago, calling the situation, “grave and deteriorating.” As expected, the ISG’s recommendations contrasted dramatically with the views of the President and his administration.
A ten member bipartisan panel, the ISG (also known as the Baker-Hamilton Commission) was commissioned by Congress in March 2006. Tasked with reviewing the administration’s handling of the Iraq war and offering recommendations on how to end the conflict, the commission was able to find consensus on a package of 79 separate recommendations that veer drastically from the President’s long-standing "stay the course" policy.
Most of the ISG’s 79 recommendations are not new. Many have been advanced by foreign policy experts and members of Congress. But as a package with the imprimatur of some of the most respected figures in American foreign policy and government, the recommendations carry substantial weight.
Since release of the ISG report, the President has finally acknowledged we are not winning in Iraq and that a new direction in Iraq is necessary. He appears, however, to be shunning the ISG’s recommendations. Instead of focusing on the best ways to extract our forces from Iraq, the President is reported to be ready to call for an immediate surge of American troops in Iraq in the range of 20,000-30,000.
More troops in Iraq won’t make a difference if their mission remains undefined. More troops only means more U.S. servicemen and women caught in the crossfire of a bloody Iraqi civil war, not greater stability for the country. General Abizaid, head of Central Command in Iraq, has said that expanding the number of American troops merely puts off the day when Iraqis are forced to take responsibility for their own security. In the General’s own words, "The Baghdad security situation requires more Iraqi troops."
The U.S. now spends over $2 billion per week in Iraq. To date, nearly 3,000 lives and over $400 billion have been lost to this conflict. Next month, the President will request an additional $160 billion to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This will provide the new Democratically-controlled Congress with an opportunity to gain some control over the funding and direction for the war in Iraq.