After Saddam, then what?
U.S. mulls options for postwar Iraq
From David Ensor
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- American and allied troops have been in Bosnia since 1995.
They've been in Kosovo since 1999. They've been in Afghanistan since October 2001.
And now there are concerns over how long U.S. troops may remain in Iraq if there is a war.
U.S. Deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley has one answer.
"The answer is straightforward: We will stay as long as is necessary but not one day more," Hadley said.
How long troops remain in Iraq depends on what the United States decides to do in the country -- transition quickly to some sort of unelected Iraqi leadership acceptable to the West, or transform Iraq into a democratic nation.
Democrat Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware said he senses a split on the matter even within the Bush administration.
"My sinking suspicion [from] Cheney, Rumsfeld and company, it is transition," Biden said earlier this month. "The president's occasional comments talk transformation."
After a period of stabilizing the country under U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command, the United States and its allies may place a non-Iraqi civilian as head of Iraq.
State Department officials talk about "transforming" Iraq after that with a new constitution, a new criminal code, and real democracy.
It's the kind of project that took Gen. Douglas MacArthur seven years in post World War II Japan.
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman says the goal for postwar Iraq is clear.
"We seek an Iraq that is democratic, that is unified, that is multi-ethnic, which has no weapons of mass destruction, which has cut its links to terrorists and is at peace with its neighbors," Grossman said.
But writer Robert Baer, a former CIA operative who spent time in Iraq, warns against counting on U.S. soldiers, intelligence officers and bureaucrats to transform Iraq.
"I think the best possibility is for the military to go in, get rid of Saddam, replace it with an acceptable government – acceptable to the Iraqis – and get out," Baer said. "Iraq is a hard place to rule and the less time we spend there the better."
The trouble will be to find a new leader acceptable to an Iraq which is deeply divided among Shia and Sunni Muslims, Kurds, Turkmens and others, critics suggest.
Although Secretary of State Colin Powell and others have made it clear that Iraq's oil wealth would not be used to pay for the war, officials say some of it could be used to help rebuild the country and shape a post-Saddam Iraq.
Depending on how many years that takes, estimates say it could involve many billions of dollars more than the war itself.
Costs of any war are still unknown.
Earlier this year, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels estimated a war with Iraq could cost between $50 billion and $60 billion. Congressional Democrats this past fall estimated the cost of a military attack against Iraq around $93 billion while Bush economic adviser Larry Lindsey -- who has since left the White House – suggested war costs could top out at $200 billion.
For latest developments, see CNN.com's Iraq Tracker.