Speaking a a short time ago on the Senate Floor, John Kerry Introduced the “Strategy for Success in Iraq Act.”
The “Strategy for Success in Iraq Act” Would Bring Home 20,000 Troops After Iraq Elections and Demands Benchmarks for Success.
Washington, D.C. — This afternoon, Senator John Kerry introduced in the Senate his plan to succeed in Iraq and bring the vast majority of our combat troops home in a reasonable timeframe tied to specific, responsible benchmarks to transfer responsibility to Iraqis — beginning with the draw down of 20,000 U.S. troops after successful Iraqi elections in December. These additional troops are in Iraq only for the purpose of providing security for the upcoming elections. If they remain in Iraq after that benchmark is achieved, it only exacerbates the sense of American occupation.
“We are entering a make-or-break six month period in Iraq. We need to be taking action now if we are ever going to bring our troops home within a reasonable timeframe from an Iraq that’s not permanently torn by irrepressible conflict,” Kerry said. “We cannot pull out precipitously or merely promise to stay ‘as long as it takes.’ There is a way forward that gives us the best chance both to salvage a difficult situation in Iraq, and to save American and Iraqi lives.”
Kerry’s legislation, the Strategy for Success in Iraq Act (S. 1993), lays out a comprehensive new strategy to complete the mission in Iraq and bring our troops home. Its goal is to undermine the insurgency by simultaneously pursing both a political settlement and the draw down of American forces linked to specific, responsible benchmarks. If followed, the process will be completed in 12-15 months.
Kerry’s plan calls for:
· The U.S. to begin a phased draw down of American troops as a series of military and political benchmarks is met, starting with a reduction of 20,000 troops over the holidays as the first benchmark -the successful completion of the December elections – is met.
· The U.S. to immediately make clear that we do not want permanent military bases in Iraq, or a large combat force on Iraqi soil indefinitely.
· The Administration to immediately give Congress and the American people a detailed plan for the transfer of military and police responsibilities on a sector by sector basis to Iraqis so the majority of our combat forces can be withdrawn — ideally by the end of next year.
· The Bush administration to prod the new Iraqi government to ask for a multinational force to help protect Iraq’s borders until a capable national army is formed. Such a force, if sanctioned by the United Nations, could attract participation by Iraq’s neighbors and countries like India and would be a critical step in stemming the tide of insurgents and money into Iraq, especially from Syria.
· The Pentagon to alter the deployment of American troops, keeping Special Operations forces pursuing specific intelligence leads and putting the vast majority of U.S. troops in rear guard, garrisoned status for security backup. We do not need to send young Americans on search and destroy missions that invite alienation and deepen the risks they face.
· The President to put the training of Iraqi security forces on a six month wartime footing and ensure that the Iraqi government has the budget to deploy them.
· The Bush administration to accept long standing offers by Egypt, Jordan, France and Germany to do more training.
· The administration to immediately call a conference of Iraq’s neighbors, Britain, Turkey and other key NATO allies, and Russia to implement a strategy to bring the parties in Iraq to a sustainable political compromise that includes mutual security guarantees among Iraqis.
· Iraq’s Sunni neighbors to set up a reconstruction fund specifically for the majority Sunni areas to show them the benefits of participating in the political process.
· The President to appoint a special envoy to bolster America’s diplomatic efforts.
· The U.S. to commit to a new regional security structure that includes improved security assistance programs and joint exercises.
· The U.S. to jumpstart our lagging reconstruction efforts by providing the necessary civilian personnel to do the job, standing up civil-military reconstruction teams throughout the country, streamlining the disbursement of funds to the provinces, expanding job creation programs for Iraqis, and strengthening the capacity of government ministries.
“We must send this critical signal to the Iraqi people – that we do not desire permanent occupation – and that Iraqis themselves must fight for Iraq. History shows that guns alone do not end an insurgency,” Kerry added.
Senior American commanders and officials have said the large U.S. military presence in Iraq feeds the insurgency. General George Casey, the top American military commander in Iraq, recently told Congress that our large military presence “feeds the notion of occupation” and “extends the amount of time that it will take for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant.” Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, breaking a thirty year silence, recently wrote, ”Our presence is what feeds the insurgency, and our gradual withdrawal would feed the confidence and the ability of average Iraqis to stand up to the insurgency.”
The full text of Kerry’s Floor Speech is available here.