WASHINGTON — The war in Iraq has become "a major debacle" and the outcome is in doubt despite improvements in security from the buildup in U.S. forces, according to a highly critical study published Thursday by the Pentagon's premier military educational institute.
The report released by the National Defense University raises fresh doubts about President Bush's projections of a U.S. victory in Iraq just a week after Bush announced that he was suspending U.S. troop reductions.
The report carries considerable weight because it was written by Joseph Collins, a former senior Pentagon official, and was based in part on interviews with other former senior defense and intelligence officials who played roles in prewar preparations.
"Measured in blood and treasure, the war in Iraq has achieved the status of a major war and a major debacle," says the report's opening line.
The report said the United States has suffered serious political costs, with its standing in the world seriously diminished. Moreover, operations in Iraq have diverted "manpower, materiel and the attention of decision-makers" from "all other efforts in the war on terror" and severely strained the U.S. armed forces.
"Compounding all of these problems, our efforts there (in Iraq) were designed to enhance U.S. national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East," the report continued.
The addition of 30,000 U.S. troops to Iraq last year to halt the country's descent into all-out civil war has improved security, but not enough to ensure that the country emerges as a stable democracy at peace with its neighbors, the report said.
"For many analysts (including this one), Iraq remains a 'must win,' but for many others, despite obvious progress under General David Petraeus and the surge, it now looks like a 'can't win.' "
The report lays much of the blame for what went wrong in Iraq at the feet of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld bypassed the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the report says, and became "the direct supervisor of the combatant commanders."
The report also singles out the Bush administration's national security apparatus and implicitly Bush and both of his national security advisers, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley, saying that "senior national security officials exhibited in many instances an imperious attitude, exerting power and pressure where diplomacy and bargaining might have had a better effect."
Violence: A suicide bomber struck the funeral of two Sunni tribesmen who joined forces against al-Qaida in Iraq, killing at least 50 people Thursday and reinforcing fears that insurgents are hitting back after American-led crackdowns.
new Tape: Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, claimed in an audiotape released today that five years of U.S. involvement in Iraq brought only defeat and that President Bush will be forced to pass the problem to his successor.