WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Victory in Iraq is a vital U.S. interest, says a new policy document, "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," published Wednesday by the White House.
But while it rejects proposals for a timetable for withdrawal, it holds out the prospect of early U.S. troop reductions, even while the United States remains committed to the stabilization and democratization of Iraq in the longer term.
"With resolve, victory will be achieved, although not by a date certain," the document says. "No war has ever been won on a timetable and neither will this one.
"But lack of a timetable does not mean our posture in Iraq (both military and civilian) will remain static over time. As conditions change, our posture will change," it says. "We expect, but cannot guarantee, that our force posture will change over the next year, as the political process advances and Iraqi security forces grow and gain experience.
"While our military presence may become less visible, it will remain lethal and decisive, able to confront the enemy wherever it may organize," the document says. "Our mission in Iraq is to win the war. Our troops will return home when that mission is complete."
Victory in Iraq is defined in three stages. In the short term, the document claims, "Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces."
In the medium term, "Iraq is in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security, with a fully constitutional government in place, and on its way to achieving its economic potential."
In the longer term, the strategy aims at building an Iraq that is "peaceful, united, stable, and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism."
"The fate of the greater Middle East -- which will have a profound and lasting impact on American security -- hangs in the balance. Failure is not an option," it says, in a clear challenge to the rising chorus of voices in the United States and abroad calling for a clear timetable for a withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces.
"Iraq would become a safe haven from which terrorists could plan attacks against America, American interests abroad, and our allies," the document warns. Without victory in Iraq, it says "Middle East reformers would never again fully trust American assurances of support for democracy and human rights in the region -- a historic opportunity lost. The resultant tribal and sectarian chaos would have major consequences for American security and interests in the region."
"Victory in Iraq is a Vital U.S. Interest," the document says. "Iraq is the central front in the global war on terror. Failure in Iraq will embolden terrorists and expand their reach; success in Iraq will deal them a decisive and crippling blow."
The strategy says that while the insurgency has developed sophisticated communications and military tactics, they can be defeated by "exploiting the differences" between the various insurgent factions.
"The enemy is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists, and terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al-Qaida. Distinct but integrated strategies are required to defeat each element," it says. "Each element shares a common short-term objective -- to intimidate, terrorize, and tear down -- but has separate and incompatible long-term goals. Exploiting these differences within the enemy is a key element of our strategy."
The Bush administration strategy, now spelled out clearly for the first time, says "We will help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq with a constitutional, representative government that respects civil rights and has security forces sufficient to maintain domestic order and keep Iraq from becoming a safe haven for terrorists."
"To achieve this end, we are pursuing an integrated strategy along three broad tracks, which together incorporate the efforts of the Iraqi government, the Coalition, cooperative countries in the region, the international community, and the United Nations," it goes on.
The political track involves working to forge a broadly supported national compact for democratic governance by helping the Iraqi government, while isolating enemy elements from those who can be won over to the political process by countering false propaganda and demonstrating to all Iraqis that they have a stake in a democratic Iraq. It seeks also to engage those outside the political process and invite in those willing to turn away from violence through ever-expanding avenues of participation, and to build stable, pluralistic, and effective national institutions that can protect the interests of all Iraqis, and facilitate Iraq's full integration into the international community.
The security track involves carrying out a campaign to defeat the terrorists and neutralize the insurgency, developing Iraqi security forces, and helping the Iraqi government. It seeks to clear areas of enemy control by remaining on the offensive, killing and capturing enemy fighters and denying them safe-haven, and to hold areas freed from enemy influence by ensuring that they remain under the control of the Iraqi government with an adequate Iraqi security force presence. The key to this will be the success in building Iraqi security forces and the capacity of local institutions to deliver services, advance the rule of law, and nurture civil society.
The economic track involves setting the foundation for a sound and self-sustaining economy by helping the Iraqi government to restore Iraq's infrastructure to meet increasing demand and the needs of a growing economy and to reform Iraq's economy, which in the past has been shaped by war, dictatorship, and sanctions, so that it can be self-sustaining in the future. This means building the capacity of Iraqi institutions to maintain infrastructure, rejoin the international economic community, and improve the general welfare of all Iraqis.
"This strategy is integrated and its elements are mutually reinforcing," the document says. "Progress in each of the political, security, and economic tracks reinforces progress in the other tracks. For instance, as the political process has moved forward, terrorists have become more isolated, leading to more intelligence on security threats from Iraqi citizens, which has led to better security in previously violent areas, a more stable infrastructure, the prospect of economic
progress, and expanding political participation."
"Victory will take time," the document warns, but insists that the strategy is working.
"Much has been accomplished in Iraq, including the removal of Saddam's tyranny, negotiation of an interim constitution, restoration of full sovereignty, holding of free national elections, formation of an elected government, drafting of a permanent constitution, ratification of that constitution, introduction of a sound currency, gradual restoration of neglected infrastructure, the ongoing training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, and the increasing capability of those forces to take on the terrorists and secure their nation."
"Many challenges remain," the document concludes. "Iraq is overcoming decades of a vicious tyranny, where governmental authority stemmed solely from fear, terror, and brutality. It is not realistic to expect a fully functioning democracy, able to defeat its enemies and peacefully reconcile generational grievances, to be in place less than three years after Saddam was finally removed from power."