Five-Year US Commitment Seen Needed In Iraq
A U.S. nation-building commitment of at least five years will be required to ensure stability once the war is over in Iraq, a veteran U.S. diplomatic
troubleshooter said on Thursday.
"I've never seen a nation-building operation of this dimension succeed in less than five years. That doesn't mean we govern Iraq for five years,
but it does mean that we stick around long enough to ensure that reforms we put in place stay in place," James Dobbins, a former State Department and
White House official, told a Brookings Institution seminar on post-war Iraq.
Dobbins has held reconstruction-related assignments in countries including Haiti, Somalia, the Balkans, and post-Taliban Afghanistan. He is now a
security and defense researcher at the RAND think-tank.
President Bush -- who was elected on a platform that included opposition to "nation-building" by the U.S. military -- has promised to maintain a
troop presence in Iraq as long as needed to ensure security.
The Bush administration has been reluctant to discuss timetables, but a State Department official told Congress in February a military occupation
could last two years. Pentagon officials have said a lengthy stay could be required.
In a speech for broadcast to Iraqis on Thursday, Bush said, "We will help you build a peaceful and representative government that that protects the
rights of all citizens. And then our military forces will leave."
With the Baghdad government in collapse, there is an immediate need for the military to quell rioting and looting, protect against widespread killings
of retribution, and keep the country from breaking up, Dobbins said.
"It now falls to the United States to reimpose order," he said. "We have to start worrying about Iraqis killing Iraqis."
On Thursday a senior Iraqi Sh'ite religious leader, Abdul Majid al-Khoei -- who was backed by the United States -- was murdered by a mob at the
holiest shrine in the Iraqi city of Najaf.
Bush said in his television address that U.S.-led forces "will help maintain law and order."
But the United States has been wary of taking up a policing role while battles are still being fought. "We are still in the middle of a military
mission," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
U.S. efforts to keep Iraq intact may involve pressure on the country's autonomy-seeking Kurds, fighting alongside U.S. troops, Dobbins said. "We'll
be confronting more likely our friends than our assumed adversaries," he said.
Brookings analyst Michael O'Hanlon said the Bush administration has "expressed some interest" in giving the NATO alliance -- strained over French
and German opposition to the war -- a role in post-war security. "If it could occur (a NATO role) would be a major advance in multilateralizing and
broadening participation," O'Hanlon said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said after a series of meetings with NATO leaders last week that the alliance might be receptive to providing
peacekeeping troops. But Germany's foreign minister said the question should remain "abstract" and another U.S. official said he was unaware of any
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