On the Record

Recent Developments in Iraq

Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack

After returning from a fact-finding mission, Brookings experts Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack joined CNN’s Fareed Zakaria to discuss recent developments in Iraq. O’Hanlon and Pollack assessed progress made by the Iraqi government and security forces, and noted the weakened state of insurgent groups throughout the country. Both experts argued that planned U.S. troop drawdowns would undermine the current relative stability within Iraq.

FAREED ZAKARIA: So, the crucial question I think Americans are wondering about is: When can they do this without both the American advisers and the huge American logistical tail and the potential for American planes to come in as cover?

MICHAEL O’HANLON: Well, on the logistics piece, we were impressed with what they did on their own. And as you know, they basically pulled Petraeus aside one day and said, “We’re going to have this war, that we were planning for later in the summer, tomorrow. Hope you can help us.”

That was basically…

ZAKARIA: That was the one in Basra.

O’HANLON: Yes, exactly.

And so, the logistics part, the transport part, they took care of more or less on their own.

However, I don’t think I can see a short-term or even medium-term way for us to get out of this entirely. I think we’re going to have to keep doing the battlefield advising, the air power, et cetera.

But this does point towards a way by which the American presence over the next, let’s say, three years might go down to 40,000 to 50,000, or maybe even a little less.

ZAKARIA: What has changed that allows you to be confident that you can now get American troops down, when you couldn’t a year ago?

KENNETH POLLACK: Well, you’ve seen a considerable weakening of both groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq and the other Sunni insurgent groups, as well as a similar weakening of some of the worst of the Shia groups — Jaish al-Mahdi, in particular.

ZAKARIA: That’s Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia.

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POLLACK: Correct.

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