Confusion in Iraq Policy

It seems Pentagon is not interested in signing off from Iraq. Its new proposal, voiced by General Ray Odierno, to stay put in the war-weary country to build trust between Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish militia can open a new Pandora’s Box.

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Published: Wed 19 Aug 2009, 10:39 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:28 AM

It has already created ripples in political realms, with Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki campaigning for a referendum to ensure an even earlier exit of foreign troops. The difference of opinion at the helm of affairs can prove detrimental to the security prospects of Iraq. The country is already gripped with sectarian and ethnic discord and has, of late, experienced renewed suicide bombings. It would serve no purpose if the proposed withdrawal plan is hampered and the talk of boosting US presence in the Arab-Kurdish trigger-line zone proves to be a precursor of more instability and chaos.

The need of the hour is to see to it that Iraq manages to live on its own. The cushion of foreign troops, howsoever indispensable, has to go. Rather, Washington should ensure that it leaves behind a foolproof security paradigm in the form of an invincible army and an efficient police force. The new proposal to patrol the volatile border in the north will bring more misery, not only for the US troops, but also the locals. It can also act as a motivating factor for a host of disgruntled elements, close to the Al Qaeda and the like, to find a constituency for themselves by citing the extended presence of foreign troops. Moreover, the uneasy truce between the Kurds and Arabs — by virtue of a power-sharing deal — will be on the rocks if undue American intervention goes unabated.

It is high time the US bid adieu to Iraq. With its focus on Afghanistan, where it plans to fight a long-drawn battle, the extra-burden of Iraq can prove costly. Similarly, there won’t be many buyers for the argument that the new deployment would not violate the terms of the joint security agreement, which mandates pullout by the end of 2011. The new plan is fraught with risks. The strategic stretch from Nineveh to Diyala lies at the heart of what has proved to be the most intractable of problems. The US troops could find themselves bogged down, not only militarily but also politically, and regret a Vietnam-like syndrome in the making.

Pentagon may be right in being concerned over the deteriorating law and order situation. But the redeployment plan would only make Kurds and Arabs more dependent on the US security umbrella, rendering them vulnerable to the challenges of future. General Odierno may have a viable strategic point to articulate, but it lacks comprehension when put to test on the political and social mosaic.

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