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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Plans for a Post-'Surge' Iraq

Council on Foreign Relations

February 8, 2007
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

President Bush's "surge" plan has come under heavy fire in the halls of Congress, from independent policy experts, as well as from a large majority of the American public. Some analysts depict it as a flawed last-ditch attempt (Mail & Guardian) to secure Iraq and prevent it from being dragged into a decades-long civil war on the scale of Algeria's or Lebanon's. But alternative strategies also pose problems. Backers of the Bush administration fault opponents of the plan for lacking a coherent alternative strategy.

A rapid withdrawal of forces, CFR President Richard N. Haass told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, does not constitute a reliable alternative because it would “raise questions in the minds of friends and foes alike about U.S. predictability and reliability,” not to mention leave Iraq as a “humanitarian disaster” and a “sanctuary and a school for terrorists.”

Some experts say the best approach is a gradual “disengagement” of U.S. forces to begin after six months of the surge—the earliest point at which U.S. military officials have said they can assess the surge’s impact. Under a gradual drawdown, troops would be withdrawn within twelve to eighteen months, while efforts are intensified to carry out a regional stablization plan. That is the strategy outlined in After the Surge, CFR Senior Fellow Steven Simon’s new Council Special Report. “The United States has accomplished all it’s likely to accomplish in Iraq,” Simon tells’s Bernard Gwertzman. “Every day we stay in Iraq, the higher the price we pay for what we’ve already achieved.”

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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