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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Army War College: 'Collapse in Iraq' if U.S. withdraws too quickly

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Army report warns that Iraq could collapse in wake of a rapid American withdrawal.   

The report by the U.S. Army War College said Iraq remains in dire need of American reconstruction and stability efforts. The report said an accelerated U.S. withdrawal could leave Iraq and the rest of the region in chaos, Middle East Newsline reported.

"A rapid withdrawal while on the verge of irreversible victory could cause a collapse in Iraq surmounting to secular conflict or civil war and would be a monumental setback to U.S. foreign policy," the report, titled "The Serpent in Our Garden: Al Qaida and the Long War," said. "Not to mention this setback would have a serious impact on the price of oil, negatively affecting world economies."

Authored by Col. Brian Drinkwine, the report said U.S. stabilization efforts in Iraq have been hampered by a lack of expertise. The report said Washington must double or triple reconstruction personnel to "ultimately speed up a full transition over to Iraqi control."

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"Currently, Coalition COIN [counter-insurgency] efforts continue to struggle because of the limited availability of civil reconstruction and governance expertise, primarily a State Department role or mission," the report said.

The report was released in February 2009 amid plans by the new administration of President Barack Obama to accelerate a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. Officials said several leading commanders, including Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus, have warned Obama that a rapid withdrawal could destabilize Iraq.

"A stable Iraq with a capable and legitimate government, able to self-rule and defend its borders and interior, is of mutual interest to many Middle Eastern countries as well as the world's major powers," the report said. "This mutual interest can be leveraged to assure commitments by other nations to support continued stability in Iraq until the country can emerge as a stabilizer in the Middle East, capable of offsetting a rogue state such as Iran or capable of dealing with newly emerging non-state threats."

The report said the United States should reduce its "overt military presence" in the Middle East. But Drinkwine, regarded as a leading counter-insurgency expert, said Washington must "stay very connected."

"We must drop the democracy dialogue and then gain better footing to communicate strategically with multiple target audiences," the report said.

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