Video: Questioning U.S. strategy in Iraq

msnbc.com
updated 6/20/2005 2:40:46 PM ET 2005-06-20T18:40:46


With the first bipartisan call for a timetable for U.S. troops to leave Iraq coming this week and no end in sight to continued attacks by Iraqi insurgents, MSNBC's Randy Meier spoke with terrorism analyst Juliette Kayyem on Friday about the military's current strategy in Iraq and how it may change in the coming months.

Kayyem, who is Executive Director of the National Security Program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said the combination of an insurgency that is not united in its goals or beliefs and too few troops in place to keep the average Iraqi safe has created a difficult scenario for the Bush administration.

"The (U.S.) strategy originally was to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Now it's not quite clear what the strategy is anymore. What does it mean to stay the course? You have a strategy that is sort of amorphous in Iraq right now," Kayyem said. 

Kayyem noted that the U.S. is battling not one insurgency, but hundreds of different groups, both Sunni and Shia and Kurds.

"Their complaints are against the U.S. presence there, so you have this combination of not enough troops and not enough folks to protect the security of the average Iraqi, and an insurgency that is increasing. It's just an explosive situation, which we're seeing just about every single day now."  

With public support waning -- a new Gallup Poll shows that nearly six in 10 Americans say the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq -- and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle calling for some kind of exit strategy, Kayyem said the drumbeat for withdrawal will surely increase.

"We only have two military options left ... one is increasing the troops, which is infeasible on a variety of levels. You can't do it, we don't have enough troops (and) politically it would be impossible for this White House to do it," Kayyem said.

"So then you (are left with) an exit strategy, which you're starting to hear from (Capitol) Hill, which is 'We need to get out, because our presence there is not necessarily making Iraq safer or more secure for the Iraqi people, and our presence there is sort of the focus for the Iraqi insurgency.'

"At some point, we're going to have to ask if our presence there is really better for the Iraqi people," Kayyem added. "Are we really stopping a civil war from going on, or is what we see actually a civil war?"

While some argue that shifting the U.S. investment focus in Iraq from military to civilian infrastructure could help, Kayyem said it isn't that easy.

"We're in a catch-22," she said. "You can't deal with the infrastructure problem because that's what the insurgents are focusing on. ... You have a security situation that makes it almost untenable to begin the second wave of rebuilding Iraq.

"That's why I think that over the course of the next couple of months, unless something changes, you're probably going to see greater calls for withdrawal in Iraq," she said.

To watch the complete interview between Randy Meier and Juliette Kayyem, click on the video link above. MSNBC Live with Amy Robach and Randy Meier can be seen weekdays from 9 a.m.-Noon.

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