WASHINGTON — A U.S. Army study warns against announcing a timetable
for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
The study warns that such an announcement would bolster the Sunni
insurgency and increase the prospect of civil war in Iraq. The report by the
Army War College — which stressed that the document did not necessarily
represent the views of the military or Defense Department — also dismissed
hopes that Iraq would soon be ready to assume major security
"From the moment a timetable is announced, all Iraqis working with the
U.S.-led coalition will calculate that U.S. protection is a declining asset,
and they correspondingly will have to make a decision about how to safeguard
themselves and their property," the report said. "Some may choose to
establish links to the insurgents, while others may seek the protection of a
On Wednesday, President George Bush outlined what he termed a U.S.
strategy for victory in Iraq. Bush dismissed calls to announce a timetable
and pledged that the United States would not surrender Iraq to Al Qaida.
"Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send the signal to our
enemies that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon
its friends," Bush said. "And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw
would vindicate the terrorist tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and
mass murder, and invite new attacks on America."
The two authors, Andrew Terrill and Conrad Crane, became prominent in
2003 when they warned of the disbanding of the Saddam Hussein army and
predicted the outbreak of the Sunni insurgency. Crane has been director of
the Army Military History Institute and Terrill serves as a Middle East
specialist at the war college's Strategic Studies Institute.
The report dismissed the prospect of a near-term breakthrough in the
U.S. war against the Sunni insurgency. The authors cited the weakness of the
Iraqi military and police as well as continued support for Sunni insurgents.
"Infiltration of both military and police forces by pro-insurgent agents
is a major problem that threatens the ability of those forces to function
effectively," the 67-page report said. "Even elite units have been
infiltrated by pro-insurgent forces, while high-ranking officers throughout
the security establishment, including generals, have been relieved from
their positions or arrested for cooperation with the insurgents."
A U.S. withdrawal strategy must provide Iraq with air power to fight
insurgents and protect the nation's borders, the report said. Entitled
"Precedents, Variables, and Options in Planning a U.S. Military
Disengagement Strategy from Iraq," the report recommended that the United
States ensure the supply of fighter-jets as well as attack and transport
helicopters to the Iraq Air Force.
"It appears increasingly unlikely that U.S., Iraqi and coalition forces
will crush the insurgency prior to the beginning of a phased U.S. and
coalition withdrawal," the report said. "Police and military forces
with incomplete training will likely crumble in the face of the insurgent
challenge, and all the effort to create these forces will be rendered
Published in October 2005, the report said the United States could not
sustain a significant troop presence in Iraq beyond 2008. The report warned
Washington that Iraq would be too unstable for the deployment of any
significant U.S. military presence.
"It is particularly important that the United States does not insist on
remaining in Iraq to support maximalist goals and then find itself unable to
sustain an ongoing presence there," the report said. "To establish vital
interest goals, it is probably best to start by considering what end-states
in Iraq are clearly unacceptable. The most important of these threats is a
large-scale Iraqi ethnic and sectarian civil war."
The report warned against optimism regarding the capabilities of the
Iraqi military and police, which now number more than 212,000. Such
optimism, stemming from the expected success of parliamentary elections
scheduled for Dec. 15, could lead to a decision for an early U.S.
"One of the most serious threats to U.S. goals in Iraq is the danger of
unrealistic optimism about the capabilities and elan of the Iraq security
forces, and especially those units that have not actually been tested in
combat," the report said. "Such wishful thinking, if acted upon, could cause
the Iraqi military to be given too much responsibility and then collapse in
the face of enemy opposition which they are not yet prepared to address."
As a result, the report urged U.S. military and intelligence leaders to
be "painfully honest" whether and when Iraqi security forces could function
independently. The authors recalled the collapse of Iraqi police in such
cities as Faluja, Mosul, Najaf and Ramadi in wake of a premature U.S.
handover of security to the central government in Baghdad.
"Establishing the point at which Iraq can fend for itself with a
declining U.S. troop presence will be a difficult challenge for U.S.
intelligence analysts as they seek to remove a sometimes unpopular
U.S./coalition presence, while not setting into motion the prospect of Iraqi
government collapse, anarchy, and civil war," the report said.
The report raised the prospect of an impending Iraqi collapse in wake of
the failure by its security forces. In such a case, the authors recommended
that ethnic militias take over the role of regional security and government.
"As a last resort for preventing near-term civil war, the United States
may have to swallow the bitter pill of allowing local militias to retain a
significant and ongoing role in Iraqi politics if the Iraqi government is
interested in pursuing this option and if the Iraqi security forces cannot
take full responsibility for the nation's safety," the report said.
"Militias are better than anarchy, although the danger they may serve as the
building blocks for civil war should cause them to be used only as a last