The Clinton plan for withdrawal from Iraq, or at least a close approximation of how we should expect her to conduct withdrawal once she becomes President, appears to already be available to the public. It comes from The Center for a New American Security, a think tank dominated by once, and possibly future, Clinton administration members. From subscription only Roll Call:
The Center for a New American Security, one of Washington, D.C.'s newest think tanks, promotes itself as a beacon of nonpartisanship in a sea of slanted competitors.
In the words of Kurt Campbell and Michèle Flournoy, the co-founders of CNAS, the group aspires "to transcend the current campaign mode that permeates many Washington policy shops and political discussions to consider the real and enduring challenges ... facing the nation."
But critics say CNAS is not as committed to nonpartisanship as its leaders maintain, given the composition of the group's board. A review of campaign donations and career affiliations shows that 19 out of the foreign policy think tank's 23 principal members - the board of advisers, board of directors and co-founders - have connections to one of the declared 2008 presidential candidates. Sixteen of those 19 have ties to former President Bill Clinton or Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), the current frontrunner for the Democratic White House nomination.
Along with Chuck Hagel, who is one of only four Senate Republicans currently backing withdrawal, Clinton delivered the keynote address at the official launch of the new think tank back in late July. The New york Times says that the Center "looks an awful lot like a shadow policy apparatus for Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign," and at The American Prospect Laura Rozen writes:
The Bush administration had the American Enterprise Institute as its ideological brain trust and frequent employment agency. The next White House will likely have the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a new, bi-partisan, national security-oriented think tank at 13th and Pennsylvania Avenue.
The withdrawal plan advocated by the Center for a New American Security contains four phases:
- Phase I, "From Surge to Sustainable" (July 2007 - January 2009):
By the end of this first phase, the U.S. military presence in Iraq would be reduced by some 100,000, to about 60,000 troops. The number of troops might be somewhat higher or lower depending on conditions in Iraq.
- Phase II: "Targeted Advisory Effort" (Suggested timeline: January 2009 - December 2011 at latest):
If the security situation in Iraq remains challenging but well short of all-out civil or regional war, the United States would continue a targeted advisory mission for two to three years - enough time for significant progress towards building Iraqi capacity while making it clear that the U.S. military will in fact depart. Depending on a wide range of factors, the initial level of approximately 60,000 American troops including 20,000 military advisors would be expected to decline as the Iraqi security forces increased in size and effectiveness.
- Phase III: "Deliberate Military Withdrawal" (Suggested timeline: December 2011 - December 2012 at latest). Withdraw all military forces from Iraq, except for the embassy protection force.
- Phase IV: "Long-Term Political Engagement; Over-the-Horizon Military Presence" (Suggested timeline: starting December 2012 at latest). This is the post-withdrawal phase.
The United States would maintain a significant military presence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf region, probably including a continuous Navy and Air Force presence as well as Special Operations Forces and ground forces. Precise numbers and posture of the forces would depend on conditions at the time in Iraq and elsewhere in the region, as well as other demands on U.S. forces globally.
While this is not the official plan from the Clinton campaign, it should be pointed out that the Clinton campaign has not released a detailed withdrawal plan of its own. Further, while these are not exactly the same people who would help formulate a withdrawal plan under a Clinton administration, many of them will be involved in creating such a plan. Finally, it should be noted that this plan does not contradict any of the specifics the Clinton campaign has offered so far on what she intends to do in Iraq if she becomes President. First, this is because the 60,000 troop estimate that include up to 20,000 advisors is precisely in the 40,000-60,000 range most commonly offered from plans of this nature. Second, Phase Two of the plan put forth by CNAS looks pretty similar to the Clinton-Byrd plan for redeployment:
(1) That a phased redeployment of United States military forces from Iraq has begun, in a manner consistent with any limitations on aid for Iraq for security purposes in effect under section 4, including the transition of United States forces in Iraq to the limited presence and mission of-
(A) training Iraqi security forces;
(B) providing logistic support of Iraqi security forces;
(C) protecting United States personnel and infrastructure; and
(D) participating in targeted counter-terrorism activities.
There is every reason to believe that if Clinton becomes President, a withdrawal plan very similar to this one will be put in place. Basically, including up to 20,000 advisors, the plan would leave close to 60,000 American troops in Iraq for three or four years, and then begin a complete withdrawal that would take as long as one more year.