Money to Iraq Is Important, But Smart Policy Must Follow

Yesterday, the President signed the Fiscal Year 2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. This law authorizes $532.8 billion to fund our military. Most importantly, it provides $70 billion for the replacement of equipment that has been destroyed or rendered unusable in Iraq or Afghanistan and provides for a well deserved 2.2% pay raise for our men and women in uniform.

The funding in the FY2007 NDAA to replace equipment, however, is only intended to start the process and leaves many units still facing shortages. Unfortunately, this is one of the many consequences of the Administration's failing Iraq policy, which has placed our military in an untenable position.

I wish that funding was the only problem we had in Iraq. However, all the money in the world is not going to quell the spiraling violence we see there on a daily basis. Already this month, 70 U.S. trrops have lost their lives -- one of the deadliest months on record and we're merely halfway through. Our soldiers and Marines in Iraq face a country that is on the brink of civil war. Rather than starting to draw down our forces, as the Administration claimed would occur by the end of 2006, our military may have to send American forces back into areas that were supposed to have been fully turned over to Iraqi security forces. This is doing nothing to secure Iraq, let alone enable our military to also deter growing threats from North Korea and Iran.

In the next twelve months, we need to make substantial progress in turning over responsibility for the security of Iraq to the government and people of Iraq. To date, we have failed in this effort and the Administration must change its policies in Iraq if we are going to stem the bloodshed.

To start, we should make it clear to the forces fomenting civil war - primarily the Sunni militants - that they can either rein in their violent supporters or face the prospect of a conflict with the majority Shiite forces that they would likely lose. In order to emphasize our commitment to this plan, we should begin to withdraw U.S. forces from selected parts of Iraq and replace them with Iraqi forces. This approach was first proposed by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, earlier this year in a Senate amendment.

If this strategy succeeds, we should systematically withdraw more US troops as Iraqi forces are prepared to defend their new government. If the strategy falters, we should attempt to negotiate a three-state federation of Shiites, Sunni and Kurdish states, facilitating a divided but stable Iraq, and enabling withdrawal of US troops.