A Call to Bring All Troops Home

The Center for American Progress will call on Monday for the withdrawal of virtually all American troops from Iraq, for the first time--including US trainers in addition to combat forces.

The new approach places CAP, a think tank with Clinton links, in conflict with the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group and most of the Democratic establishment who have supported retaining thousands of American trainers in a lower-visibility war in Iraq.

The new analysis is driven by a recognition that the United States would be training Iraqi troops in a sectarian civil war with no end in sight.

The conclusions reinforce those voices urging that the United States end its involvement in a "dirty war" and instead enforce the 1997 Leahy amendment, which prohibits security assistance to any foreign forces "against whom exist credible allegations of gross violations of human rights."

The CAP report should lead to Congressional hearings into whether the Iraqi government and security units are human rights violators, paving the way for a possible Congressional amendment to terminate US support.

The present US "advisory mission" consists of five teams:

1. Coalition Military Assistance Team [recruiting, training, equipping, basing and sustaining Iraqi military units]
2. Joint Headquarters Transition Team [assists with command and control functions]
3. Coalition Air Force Transition Team [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]
4. Civilian Police Assistance Training [training, equipping, organizing, mentoring Interior ministry police, commandos, etc.]
5. Ministry of Interior Transition Team [develops "law enforcement capacity"].

The CAP report further calls for all US troops to withdraw on a one-year timetable, except for troops redeployed to Kurdistan for one additional year. All US bases would be closed, and the Vatican-scale US embassy would be replaced by a network of smaller consulates to work at local and regional levels.

The sharpest debates are sure to occur about the proposals to phase out training. The pressure will be on the Iraq Study Group to reconsider its December 2006 recommendations based on the worsening situation on the ground.

Senators Russ Feingold, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Carl Levin and Joe Biden have supported the retention of 15,000 to 30,000 American trainers until the Iraqis "stand up."

Just last week, Biden and Senator Barbara Boxer advocated a new partitioning of Iraq with a smaller US force left to fight Al Qaeda and train the Iraqi security forces. The most progressive Senate proposal, by Feingold and twenty-nine others, would still leave thousands of US troops behind in training functions. All of these positions will be re-evaluated in the weeks ahead.

Tom Hayden is a former state senator and leader of Sixties peace, justice and environmental movements. He currently teaches at PitzerCollege in Los Angeles. His books include The Port Huron Statement[new edition], Street Wars and The Zapatista Reader.

(c) 2007 The Nation

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