The panel discussion "Exiting Iraq" took place at the 60th annual conference in November, 2006.
November 13, 2006
Jay Garner, US Army General (ret.), Brian Katulis, Center for American Progress, David Satterfield, Sr. State Dept. Coordinator for Iraq, Qubad Talabani, Kurdistan Regional Government, Moderator: Bing West, GAMA Corporation
In the “Exiting Iraq” panel of the Middle East Institute’s 60th Annual Conference, Jay Garner, Brian Katulis, David Satterfield, Qubad Talabani and moderator Bing West discussed various ways to improve the situation in Iraq and to find a comprehensive and successful way out of the current quagmire for US forces. Bing West identified the four major themes that appeared throughout each panelist’s speech: a greater advisory role of US troops, the necessity for regional dialogue, the essential nature of a pro-American Kurdistan and the need to develop contingency plans if the situation continues to degrade.
Moderator Bing West began the panel with his insights on options for US policy in Iraq. He suggested that the United States substantially reduce its force size and considerably augment its advisory efforts. This theme was echoed in the presentations of subsequent panelists.
General Jay Garner broke down his recommendations on Iraq into concerns on security, government and economy. He suggested a two-phase redeployment plan with a timeline contingent on Iraqi security capabilities. Phase one would require the subdivision of Iraq into the 13 principle conflict zones. US forces could be moved out of individual areas and replaced by “certified” Iraqi battalions embedded within a robust US military advisory presence. Phase two would begin as Iraqi troops were deemed fully competent and would lead to the redeployment and ultimate withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq. On the political front, Garner emphasized the need for strong regional governments that reflected the complex ethnic and religious landscape of Iraq. He noted that real progress in Iraq cannot be made without viable solutions to the country’s economic problems. To this end, he advised a push to employ the young men of Iraq, which would simultaneously reduce the available pool of anti-American recruits and infuse money directly into the Iraqi economy.
Brian Katulis focused largely on the diplomatic and political efforts required to achieve goals in Iraq. He spoke about a phased, gradual, multi-year reduction of troops coupled with continued “training and support.” Mr. Katulis suggested that greater US presidential leadership could bring about a regional peace conference with stabilization as the main agenda. He reiterated the important role of the Iraqis in their own future and warned against Iraqi politicians “hedging their bets” by committing to both the national government and independent groups which espouse violence. Mr. Katulis spoke of the necessity of a “plan B,” a concrete contingency plan based on increased diplomatic efforts, should the Iraqi situation continue to deteriorate.
Qubad Talabani asserted that the US must exit Iraq in success and not in defeat in order to restore US credibility in the region. He also noted that an abrupt exit could have catastrophic ramifications for Iraq. Mr. Talabani stated that although a sense of defeatism permeates most discussions on Iraq there has been substantial progress in some areas of the country, particularly in Kurdistan. Mr. Talabani agreed with previous panelists on the need for benchmarks and not timetables for Iraq. He suggested a shift towards federalism and the unification of a partitioned society through a consultative process. He also underscored the importance of Iraqi economic development and of accountable local and regional governments in gaining the support of the Iraqi people.
Ambassador David Satterfield, the panel’s final speaker, stressed the need for constant evaluation and then adjustment of policies to the complexities of Iraq, without a change in goals. Amb. Satterfield addressed the issue of Iraqi security by identifying its three primary threats: the Sunni insurgency, Al-Qaeda (both in Iraq and as a facet of the greater War on terror) and the expanding sectarian conflict. Of the three, he described sectarian violence as the greatest threat and urged US, Iraqi, regional and international actors to address that reality. Amb. Satterfield also called for a comprehensive and inclusive reconciliation of all parties with the state. He concluded that the US must act as a catalyst to mobilize support and must draw on both internal and external actors to help move Iraq forward.
In the question and answer section of the panel, Amb. Satterfield responded to requests for a clearer definition of the nature of the conflict. He described the conflict as an insurgency operating “from the bottom up.” In their closing comments, panelists addressed the US government’s lack of leverage in the region. Several panelists suggested reopening talks with neighboring countries to address the destabilization in Iraq as well as larger regional issues and all concurred that increased dialogue was essential to moving forward in Iraq.
About this Event
Jay Garner, Brian Katulis, David Satterfield, Qubad Talabani and Bing West offered these remarks at the National Press Club Room in Washington, DC on November 13, 2006. The panel was part of the Middle East Institute's 60th Annual Conference.
This event summary was written by Bryn Sedlacek. Bryn recently graduated from Vanderbilt University with a BA in Political Science and a minor in Islamic Studies. Bryn is currently an intern in the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center. This event summary was peer-edited by Isaac Morrison. He is a recent graduate from University of Maryland College Park with a degree in cultural anthropology with a focus in the Middle East. He is also an intern in the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center.