CNAS’s “Pivot Point” conference on June 11, 2008, featured a panel on Iraq chaired by Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, USMC (ret.) with CNAS fellow and Georgetown University professor Colin Kahl, GEN Jack Keane, USA (ret.), and Center for American Progress fellow Brian Katulis.
Dr. Kahl presented the findings of CNAS’s new report, “Shaping the Iraq Inheritance.”
He argued that the causes recent security progress in Iraq are complex and reversible. Accordingly, a new strategy of “conditional engagement” is necessary to preserve current gains and make the Iraqi government take further steps toward stability and self-reliance. Under a conditional engagement policy, the U.S. military would begin a phased withdrawal of combat forces to signal its intent to leave and use its remaining presence as bargaining leverage to compel the Iraqi government to take further steps toward political reconciliation. GEN Keane asserted that the United States is close to achieving victory in the Iraq war, thanks in large part to the strategy shift in 2007 and the Iraqi people’s rejection of al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army. Mr. Katulis argued that “conditional engagement” in practice may not be different from the Bush administration’s behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Iraqi government and called for a broader regional strategic reassessment of American Middle East policy.