At a Center for American Progress Action Fund forum Friday, Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) and Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA)—two prominent voices against the surge—criticized the Bush administration’s Iraq strategy for failing to address fundamental challenges in Iraq and fostering reconciliation between Iraq’s different factions.
At the surge’s outset, President Bush highlighted the need for added security in order to provide the nascent Iraqi government and armed forces with enough space to grow and unify the country.
But the additional troop surge has not been met with a political surge by the Iraqis, said Tauscher. The government remains sluggish and unmotivated, failing to adequately train and prepare its troops and allowing sectarian conflicts to infiltrate its police force.
With U.S. military officials stating that the surge is not sustainable past next spring and a lack of incentives in place for Iraqi leaders to strike power-sharing deals, it is not in America’s strategic interests to remain caught in an Iraqi civil war that consumes millions in borrowed money a day and has resulted in the deaths of 3,700 American troops, said Tauscher.
A strategy that gets U.S. troops out of the sectarian violence and begins the slow task of preparing the Iraqi troops to stand alone is essential, said Casey, and not the administration’s "more of the same" and "stay the course" rhetoric.
The vast majority of "good news" stories from Iraq, such as Sunni tribal leaders working with American troops, are coming from the sparsely populated provinces or from within the Baghdad Green Zone, said Tauscher.
In reality, the majority of Iraqis live in urban areas like Baghdad, where sectarian attacks have pushed Sunnis into tight, dangerous enclaves. Many of these enclaves remain closed to members of visiting delegations, whose travel is limited to heavily-secured convoys because of the ongoing threats.
Without a clear majority in either house of Congress, progressives and conservatives must come together to form a working consensus on Iraq, said Casey, which will not happen until the president makes the effort to admit shortcomings and personally engages with Congress to plan for future.
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