WASHINGTON, March 9 (UPI) -- The Council on Foreign Relations warned Tuesday that election politics should not jeopardize U.S. staying power in Iraq.
"With the transition to democracy in Iraq at a critical juncture, and with the American presidential election nearing, President Bush, presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry, and senior members of Congress must reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Iraq," said a report, "Iraq: One Year After," issued by the council's Independent Task Force on Post-Conflict Iraq at a meeting in Washington.
Noting "significant progress" in the post-conflict reconstruction and political transition effort, the Task Force reported that the planned transfer of sovereignty on June 30, combined with U.S. troop reductions from Iraqi cities and uncertainty about long-term U.S. funding, has created doubts about U.S. staying power.
To avoid destabilizing the effort and demoralizing Iraqis, the Task Force asked the Bush administration, the Democratic nominee, and congressional leaders to adopt the following steps: declare that coalition forces will continue to provide security in Iraq until Iraqis can do so on their own; emphasize that transfer of sovereignty does not signal a diminished U.S. commitment; affirm that the United States is prepared to sustain a multi-billion dollar commitment to Iraq for at least the next several years; ensure broad involvement of Iraqis, and promote a leading role for the United Nations in the political transition process.
The task force is chaired by James R. Schlesinger, former defense secretary under Preident Nixon and Eeergy secretary under President Carter and former U.N. Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering. The independent, non-partisan force includes a wide variety of regional, military and economic experts.