12/18/2007 — 

MR. REED: Mr. President, Senator Levin has very eloquently pointed out the premise of the President's surge strategy; that was to provide the political space so that the Iraqi Government could essentially begin a reconciliation among its own people, begin to function effectively. Little or none of that has happened.

What has happened is that the violence has been reduced. That is commendable. It is attributable to several factors; first, the increase of American forces there and the way they have been deployed very adroitly by our military commanders; secondly, the fact that coincidentally but propitiously in Anbar Province, Sunni tribesmen have finally figured out that al-Qaida is as much a threat to them as to anyone else, particularly Americans. They have banded together with us to attack al-Qaida elements there. How long that relationship of convenience lasts is a question that has not been resolved.

Within Baghdad, there has been significant ethnic cleansing. In fact, we recall just weeks ago, refugees started coming back. They were told by the Government in Baghdad: Do not come back. You are going to provoke another destabilizing situation. That ethnic cleansing is one other factor.

Sadr, the leader of the Shia in the South, one of the purported leaders in the South, has basically told his Mahdi army to stand down for 6 months so he can reorganize, so he can regroup, so when he feels the moment is right he is in a much more powerful position to strike.

Then the administration has finally embraced some diplomatic efforts; quietly, I think, with the Iranians, much more publicly with the Syrians and others. All of those factors together have contributed to this reduced violence.

But here is one of the most significant and salient facts we have to recognize: The surge is over. Our force structure will not allow a continuation of 160,000 American forces in Iraq beyond the middle of this year, beyond this summer. That is not because some politician in Washington said so, that is because the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, because the Chief of Staff of the Army understand that the operational tempo will not allow that.

The question before us is: Well, what is the strategy now? Is the strategy coming here and asking for billions of dollars every 3 or 4 months? Asking for troops that cannot be actively or effectively provided, because our force structure is too small?
The essence of this amendment, an amendment that Senator Levin and I and others have been pursuing for months now, is to focus on a strategy that can be sustained and supported so we can do what we must do. That strategy, in our view, boils down to three very specific missions: Go after the terrorists, the al-Qaida people, wherever they are; train Iraqi security forces to support their country, because ultimately the Iraqi people and their leaders will decide whether their country will survive and prosper, not American forces; and, finally, protect our forces on the ground.

Those are three discrete missions that can be done, should be done. There is no attempt in this amendment to cut off funding. There is an attempt, though, to focus our policy on a strategy that will work over time. What we have here is no simple situation in which you have got an al-Qaida rogue group we are going after. This is a very complicated situation.

Ultimately at the heart of this, it is a political struggle between Sunni, Shia, and Kurds; Sunnis, who feel a profound sense of entitlement which has been frustrated by our operations over there, and the departure of the Baathist regime; Shia, who feel profoundly paranoid because they suffered grievously under that regime; and Kurds, who want their autonomy.

These political forces have to be settled. They will only be settled internally by the Iraqis standing up. This amendment will help direct that policy, force them to recognize we are not there indefinitely with a blank check. It will also guide our forces to missions that we can perform, that will be essential to our security and will allow us, I believe, to do what we can to help that country stabilize itself.

This is a message. It is a message to the troops that we are going to adopt a wise, sustainable policy that is worthy of their sacrifice. It is a message, I hope, to the President that he cannot come back here every 6 months and ask for 5, 10, 50, 70, 80, $100 billion. It is a message to the Iraqi politicians that they must seize this moment.

I urge passage.