WASHINGTON—The war in Iraq illustrates why the United States must put more resources into post-conflict security and reconstruction, an independent panel headed by two former national security advisers said in a report issued Wednesday.
The panel, led by Samuel Berger and Brent Scowcroft, said inadequate planning before the war "left the United States ill-equipped to address public security, governance and economic demands in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, seriously undermining U.S. foreign policy goals and giving early impetus to the insurgency."
The United States was involved in major nation-building efforts in Somalia, Haiti, the Balkans and East Timor in the 1990s, but many of the lessons from those operations were disregarded when it came to post-conflict planning for Afghanistan and Iraq, the panel concluded. The result has been "inefficient operations, billions of dollars in wasted resources, and stymied ambitions."
"The post-conflict situation in Iraq exemplifies this failure in stark relief," the report said. "More than two years after a stunning three-week march to Baghdad, the U.S. military and newly trained Iraqi forces have yet to secure the country, and the reconstruction process has fallen victim to this lack of security."
The 34 members of the panel who wrote the report include congressional Republicans and Democrats, as well as former senior policy officials. Berger served as national security adviser under President Clinton. Scowcroft held the same position under the first President Bush. The Council on Foreign Relations, an independent policy research group, sponsored the report.
Failed states such as Afghanistan become breeding grounds for terrorists, and the United States can't ignore them, the report said.
"Failing states or those that are emerging from conflict will remain a significant feature of the international landscape for the foreseeable future, as will the corresponding demand for the United States and others to address this problem," the report said.
The group called on the president to make planning for post-war efforts a top national security priority.
"War-fighting has two important dimensions: winning the war and winning the peace," the report said. "The United States excels in the first. But without an equal commitment to stability and reconstruction, combat victories can be lost."
The White House didn't have an immediate response to the report.
President Bush initially put the Pentagon in charge of post-war reconstruction efforts in Iraq, a break from the tradition of having the State Department handle this work, the report said.
Responsibility was shifted back to the State Department in May 2004, just before the transfer to Iraqi sovereignty, but the Defense Department still controls such functions as training Iraq's police and military and rebuilding much of its economic infrastructure, according to the report.
After two years, "it has become clear that the skeptics were right," the report said. "Absent proper directives, training and support, the Defense Department was not prepared to take on the complex task of post-intervention stabilization and reconstruction in Iraq."
The panel recommended that the president put the national security adviser and his staff in charge of coordinating civilian and military activities in post-conflict situations. The State Department should lead all civilian reconstruction efforts, and the U.S. Agency for International Development should lead daily handling of reconstruction tasks on the ground.
The report also recommended that the United States create a $500 million contingency fund to deal with emergencies and that it urge the Group of Eight industrialized countries to create a $1 billion trust fund for international reconstruction efforts.
"We need to have a regular process for doing this," said Scowcroft, speaking to reporters Wednesday.
Last year, Bush created a State Department office to coordinate reconstruction and stability efforts with the Pentagon. The president has asked Congress for $124 million to fund the office as part of his fiscal year 2006 budget request, and he wants the authority to shift $200 million from the Pentagon to the State Department in case of an immediate crisis. Congress hasn't approved these measures.
The report, in PDF format, is available on the Council on Foreign Relations' Web site, at www.cfr.org.
(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.