Excerpts from the Iraq Study Group's Report

The following are excerpts from portions of the Iraq Study Group report, which was released Wednesday:

— "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved."

— "Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another. If they are effectively implemented, and if the Iraqi government moves forward with national reconciliation, Iraqis will have an opportunity for a better future, terrorism will be dealt a blow, stability will be enhanced in an important part of the world, and America's credibility, interests and values will be protected."

—- "If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighboring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shia clashes could spread. Al-Qaida could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized."

— "During the past nine months we have considered a full range of approaches for moving forward. All have flaws. Our recommended course has shortcomings, but we firmly believe that it includes the best strategies and tactics to positively influence the outcome in Iraq and the region."

—- "The United States should immediately launch a new diplomatic offensive to build an international consensus for stability in Iraq and the region. This diplomatic effort should include every country that has an interest in avoiding a chaotic Iraq, including all of Iraq's neighbors. Iraq's neighbors and key states in and outside the region should form a support group to reinforce security and national reconciliation within Iraq, neither of which Iraq can achieve on its own."

—- "Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively. In seeking to influence the behavior of both countries, the United States has disincentives and incentives available. Iran should stem the flow of arms and training to Iraq, respect Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and use its influence over Iraqi Shia groups to encourage national reconciliation. The issue of Iran's nuclear programs should continue to be dealt with by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. Syria should control its border with Iraq to stem the flow of funding, insurgents and terrorists in and out of Iraq.

"The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria and President Bush's June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This commitment must include direct talks with, by and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians - those who accept Israel's right to exist - and Syria.

"As the United States develops its approach toward Iraq and the Middle East, the United States should provide additional political, economic and military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved out of Iraq."

—- "The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq. At that time, U.S. combat forces in Iraq could be deployed only in units embedded with Iraqi forces, in rapid-reaction and special operations teams and in training, equipping, advising, force protection and search and rescue. Intelligence and support efforts would continue. A vital mission of those rapid reaction and special operations forces would be to undertake strikes against al-Qaida in Iraq."

—-

Here are excerpts from a letter from Iraq Study Group co-chairs James A. Baker III and Lee Hamilton:

—- "There is no magic formula to solve the problems of Iraq. However, there are actions that can be taken to improve the situation and protect American interests. Many Americans are dissatisfied, not just with the situation in Iraq but with the state of our political debate regarding Iraq. Our political leaders must build a bipartisan approach to bring a responsible conclusion to what is now a lengthy and costly war. Our country deserves a debate that prizes substance over rhetoric, and a policy that is adequately funded and sustainable. The president and Congress must work together. Our leaders must be candid and forthright with the American people in order to win their support."

—- "No one can guarantee that any course of action in Iraq at this point will stop sectarian warfare, growing violence or a slide toward chaos. If current trends continue, the potential consequences are severe. Because of the role and responsibility of the United States in Iraq, and the commitments our government has made, the United States has special obligations. Our country must address as best it can Iraq's many problems. The United States has long-term relationships and interests at stake in the Middle East, and needs to stay engaged."

—- "In this consensus report, the 10 members of the Iraq Study Group present a new approach because we believe there is a better way forward. All options have not been exhausted. We believe it is still possible to pursue different policies that can give Iraq an opportunity for a better future, combat terrorism, stabilize a critical region of the world and protect America's credibility, interests and values. Our report makes it clear that the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people also must act to achieve a stable and hopeful future."

—- "The Iraqi Army is making fitful progress toward becoming a reliable and disciplined fighting force loyal to the national government. By the end of 2006, the Iraqi Army is expected to comprise 118 battalions formed into 36 brigades under the command of 10 divisions. Although the army is one of the more professional Iraqi institutions, its performance has been uneven. The training numbers are impressive, but they represent only part of the story. Significant questions remain about the ethnic composition and loyalties of some Iraqi units specifically, whether they will carry out missions on behalf of national goals instead of a sectarian agenda. Of Iraq's 10 planned divisions, those that are even-numbered are made up of Iraqis who signed up to serve in a specific area, and they have been reluctant to redeploy to other areas of the country. As a result, elements of the Army have refused to carry out missions.

"The Iraqi Army is also confronted by several other significant challenges: Units lack leadership. They lack the ability to work together and perform at higher levels of organization the brigade and division level. Leadership training and the experience of leadership are the essential elements to improve performance. Units lack equipment. They cannot carry out their missions without adequate equipment. Congress has been generous in funding requests for U.S. troops, but it has resisted fully funding Iraqi forces. The entire appropriation for Iraqi defense forces for FY 2006, $3 billion, is less than the United States currently spends in Iraq every two weeks.

"Units lack personnel. Soldiers are on leave one week a month so that they can visit their families and take them their pay. Soldiers are paid in cash because there is no banking system. Soldiers are given leave liberally and face no penalties for absence without leave. Unit readiness rates are low, often at 50 percent or less."

—- "The state of the Iraqi police is substantially worse than that of the Iraqi Army. The Iraqi Police Service currently numbers roughly 135,000 and is responsible for local policing. It has neither the training nor legal authority to conduct criminal investigations, nor the firepower to take on organized crime, insurgents, or militias. The Iraqi National Police numbers roughly 25,000 and its officers have been trained in counterinsurgency operations, not police work. The Border Enforcement Department numbers roughly 28,000. Iraqi police cannot control crime, and they routinely engage in sectarian violence, including the unnecessary detention, torture, and targeted execution of Sunni Arab civilians. The police are organized under the Ministry of the Interior, which is confronted by corruption and militia infiltration and lacks control over police in the provinces.

—- "The Facilities Protection Service poses additional problems. Each Iraqi ministry has an armed unit, ostensibly to guard the ministry's infrastructure. All together, these units total roughly 145,000 uniformed Iraqis under arms. However, these units have questionable loyalties and capabilities. In the ministries of Health, Agriculture, and Transportation controlled by Moqtada al-Sadr, the Facilities Protection Service is a source of funding and jobs for the Mahdi Army. One senior U.S. official described the Facilities Protection Service as 'incompetent, dysfunctional, or subversive.' Several Iraqis simply referred to them as militias."

—- "The results of Operation Together Forward II are disheartening. Violence in Baghdad already at high levels jumped more than 43 percent between the summer and October 2006. U.S. forces continue to suffer high casualties. Perpetrators of violence leave neighborhoods in advance of security sweeps, only to filter back later. Iraqi police have been unable or unwilling to stop such infiltration and continuing violence. The Iraqi Army has provided only two out of the six battalions that it promised in August would join American forces in Baghdad. The Iraqi government has rejected sustained security operations in Sadr City.

"Security efforts will fail unless the Iraqis have both the capability to hold areas that have been cleared and the will to clear neighborhoods that are home to Shiite militias. U.S. forces can 'clear' any neighborhood, but there are neither enough U.S. troops present nor enough support from Iraqi security forces to `hold' neighborhoods so cleared. The same holds true for the rest of Iraq. Because none of the operations conducted by U.S. and Iraqi military forces are fundamentally changing the conditions encouraging the sectarian violence, U.S. forces seem to be caught in a mission that has no foreseeable end."

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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