A resident gestures as he talks to a U.S. soldier from 2nd Brigade combat team in Baghdad, January 5, 2008. Picture taken January 5, 2008.
Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud / Courtesy Reuters


Colin H. Kahl

In "The Price of the Surge" (May/June 2008), Steven Simon correctly observes that the Sunni turn against al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), known as the Sunni Awakening, has been a key factor in security progress during the period of "the surge." Simon is also on point when he notes that the Awakening, which began before the surge, was not a direct consequence of additional U.S. troops. But although Simon gets much of the past right, he ultimately draws the wrong lessons for U.S. policy moving forward.

Rather than unilaterally and unconditionally withdrawing from Iraq and hoping that the international community will fill the void and push the Iraqis toward accommodation -- a very unlikely scenario -- the United States must embrace a policy of "conditional engagement." This approach would couple a phased redeployment of combat forces with a commitment to providing residual

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  • WILLIAM E. ODOM, a retired three-star General in the U.S. Army and former Director of the National Security Agency, is a Professor at Yale University and a Senior Adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
  • COLIN H. KAHL is an Assistant Professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
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