National Strategy for Victory in Iraq


National Security Council -- November 2005

November 30, 2005; 8:15 AM


The following document was released by the White House on Nov. 30, 2005.


The following document articulates the broad strategy the President set forth in 2003 and provides an update on our progress as well as the challenges remaining.


"The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected.

Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own: we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more." -- President George W. Bush, February 26, 2003


Executive Summary




Helping the Iraqi People Defeat the Terrorists and Build an Inclusive Democratic State


Victory in Iraq is Defined in Stages

Victory in Iraq is a Vital U.S. Interest

Failure is Not an Option

The Enemy Is Diffuse and Sophisticated

Our Strategy for Victory is Clear

          For instance, as the political process has moved forward, terrorists have become more isolated,       
          leading to more intelligence on security threats from Iraqi citizens, which has led to better security in
          previously violent areas, a more stable infrastructure, the prospect of economic progress, and
          expanding political participation.

Victory Will Take Time

Our Victory Strategy Is (and Must Be) Conditions Based

We expect, but cannot guarantee, that our force posture will change over the next year, as the political process advances and Iraqi security forces grow and gain experience.

While our military presence may become less visible, it will remain lethal and decisive, able to confront the enemy wherever it may organize.

Our mission in Iraq is to win the war. Our troops will return home when that mission is complete.


Helping the Iraqi People Defeat the Terrorists and Build an Inclusive Democratic State


"Our mission in Iraq is clear. We're hunting down the terrorists. We're helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. We're advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability, and laying the foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren." -- President George W. Bush, June 28, 2003


As the central front in the global war on terror, success in Iraq is an essential element in the long war against the ideology that breeds international terrorism. Unlike past wars, however, victory in Iraq will not come in the form of an enemy's surrender, or be signaled by a single particular event -- there will be no Battleship Missouri, no Appomattox. The ultimate victory will be achieved in stages, and we expect:

In the short term:

In the medium term:

In the longer term:


The war on terrorism is the defining challenge of our generation, just as the struggle against communism and fascism were challenges of the generations before. As with those earlier struggles, the United States is fully committed to meeting this challenge. We will do everything it takes to win.

Prevailing in Iraq will help us win the war on terror.

         Osama Bin Laden has declared that the "third world raging" in Iraq, and it will end there, in "either victory and glory, or misery and humiliation."

         Bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri has declared Iraq to be "the place for the greatest battle," where he hopes to "expel the Americans" and then spread "the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq."

         Al Qaida in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has openly declared that "we fight today in Iraq, and tomorrow in the Land of the Two Holy Places, and after there the west."

As the terrorists themselves recognize, the outcome in Iraq -- success or failure -- is critical to the outcome in the broader war on terrorism.

         Ceding ground to terrorists in one of the world's most strategic regions will threaten the world's economy and America's security, growth, and prosperity, for decades to come. - An emerging democracy in Iraq will change the regional status quo that for decades has bred alienation and spawned the transnational terrorism that targets us today. - The terrorists' perverse ideology is countered by the advance of freedom and the recognition that all people have the right to live under democracy and the rule of law, free from oppression and fear, with hope and optimism for the future.


Helping the people of Iraq is the morally right thing to do -- America does not abandon its friends in the face of adversity. Helping the people of Iraq, however, is also in our own national interest.

If we and our Iraqi partners prevail in Iraq, we will have made America:

         by removing Saddam Hussein, a destabilizing force in a vital region, a ruthless dictator who had a history of pursuing and even using weapons of mass destruction, was a state sponsor of terror, had invaded his neighbors, and who was violently opposed to America;

         by depriving terrorists of a safe haven from which they could plan and launch attacks against the United States and American interests;

         by delivering a strategic setback to the terrorists and keeping them on the run; - by delivering a decisive blow to the ideology that fuels international terrorism, proving that the power of freedom is stronger than a perverse vision of violence, hatred, and oppression.

         by demonstrating to our friends and enemies the reliability of U.S. power, the strength of our commitment to our friends, and the tenacity of our resolve against our enemies; -- by securing a new friend and partner in the fight against terrorism in the heart of the Middle East.

         politically, by bolstering democratic reformers -- and the prospects for peaceful, democratic governments -- in a region that for decades has been a source of instability and stagnation;

         economically, by facilitating progressive reform in the region and depriving terrorists control over a hub of the world's economy.


If we and our Iraqi partners fail in Iraq, Iraq will become:

Furthermore, if we and our Iraqi partners fail in Iraq, the terrorists will have:


The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists, and terrorists affiliated with or inspired by Al Qaida. These three groups share a common opposition to the elected Iraqi government and to the presence of Coalition forces, but otherwise have separate and to some extent incompatible goals.


Despite their competing goals, these disparate enemy elements share a common operational concept: Intimidate, coerce, or convince the Iraqi public not to support the transition to democracy by persuading them that the nascent Iraqi government is not competent and will be abandoned by a Coalition that lacks the stomach for this fight.

Enemy Lines of Action.

The enemy seeks to ...


Our Strategy is Clear: We will help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq with a constitutional, representative government that respects civil rights and has security forces sufficient to maintain domestic order and keep Iraq from becoming a safe haven for terrorists. To achieve this end, we are pursuing a comprehensive approach that involves the integrated efforts of the entire United States Government, the Iraqi government, and Coalition governments, and encourages the active involvement of the United Nations, other international organizations, and supportive regional states.

The Political Track (Isolate, Engage, Build)

         To achieve this objective, we are helping the Iraqi government: Isolate hardened enemy elements from those who can be won over to a peaceful political process by countering false propaganda and demonstrating to the Iraqi people that they have a stake in a viable, democratic Iraq. Engage those outside the political process and invite in those willing to turn away from violence through ever-expanding avenues of peaceful participation. Build stable, pluralistic, and effective national institutions that can protect the interests of all Iraqis, and facilitate Iraq's full integration into the international community.

The Security Track (Clear, Hold, Build)

         To achieve this objective, we are helping the Iraqi government: Clear areas of enemy control by remaining on the offensive, killing and capturing enemy fighters and denying them safe-haven. Hold areas freed from enemy control by ensuring that they remain under the control of a peaceful Iraqi government with an adequate Iraqi security force presence. Build Iraqi Security Forces and the capacity of local institutions to deliver services, advance the rule of law, and nurture civil society.

The Economic Track (Restore, Reform, Build)

        Objective: To assist the Iraqi government in establishing the foundations for a sound economy with the capacity to deliver essential services.

         To achieve this objective, we are helping the Iraqi government: Restore Iraq's neglected infrastructure so it can meet increasing demand and the needs of a growing economy. Reform Iraq's economy, which has been shaped by war, dictatorship, and sanctions, so that it can be self-sustaining in the future. Build the capacity of Iraqi institutions to maintain infrastructure, rejoin the international economic community, and improve the general welfare of all Iraqis.


Progress along one of the political, security, and economic tracks reinforces progress along the other tracks. For example:

        As the political process has moved forward, terrorists have become more isolated, leading to more intelligence on their leadership and hideouts from Iraqi citizens, which has led to better security in previously violent areas, a more stable infrastructure, the prospect of economic progress, and expanding political participation.

        As security operations in Fallujah, Mosul, Tal Afar, and elsewhere have killed or led to the capture of high-level terrorists and insurgents, residents in those areas have come forward to participate in the political process, registering and turning out to vote in vast numbers, and providing local residents a meaningful voice in the new Iraq.

        As economic activities have progressed, ordinary citizens have returned to normal life and developed a stake in a peaceful Iraq and thus become motivated to support the political process and cooperate with security forces.

Part II of this paper will discuss the three tracks -- political, security, and economic -- in more detail, so Americans can better understand the elements of our vital mission, the nature of our strategy, why we believe this strategy will succeed, the progress we are making, and how our government is organized to help Iraqis ensure lasting victory in Iraq.


Our Strategy Is Working. Much has been accomplished in Iraq, including the removal of Saddam's tyranny, negotiation of an interim constitution, restoration of full sovereignty, holding of free national elections, formation of an elected government, drafting of a permanent constitution, ratification of that constitution, introduction of a sound currency, gradual restoration of Iraq's neglected infrastructure, and the ongoing training and equipping of Iraq's security forces.


Success in the short, medium, and long run will depend on progress in overcoming these challenges and on the conditions on the ground in Iraq. Our strategy -- along the political, security, and economic tracks -- is establishing the conditions for victory. These conditions include:

Although we are confident of victory in Iraq, we will not put a date certain on when each stage of success will be reached -- because the timing of success depends upon meeting certain conditions, not arbitrary timetables.


We track numerous indicators to map the progress of our strategy and change our tactics whenever necessary. Detailed reports -- both classified and unclassified -- are issued weekly, monthly, and quarterly by relevant agencies and military units. * Many of these reports with detailed metrics are released to the public, and are readily accessible.

For example: - Gains in training Iraqi security forces are updated weekly at; - Improvements in the economy and infrastrructure are collected weekly by the State Department ( as well as USAID, which continually updates its many ongoing programs and initiatives in Iraq (; - Extensive reports are also made every thhree months to Congress, and are accessible at the State ( and Defense ( Department websites.

Americans can read and assess these reports to get a better sense of what is being done in Iraq and the progress being made on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

        Other indicators are also important to success, but less subject to precise measurement, such as the extent to which principles of transparency, trust in government institutions, and acceptance of the rule of law are taking hold amongst a population that has never known them.

        These indicators have more strategic significance than the metrics that the terrorists and insurgents want the world to use as a measure of progress or failure: number of bombings. The following pages break down the three tracks of our strategy -- political, security, economic -- and explain the logic behind them in more detail.

"The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden. For the sake of our nation's security, this will not happen on my watch."
-- President George W. Bush, June 28, 20055


Helping the Iraqi People Defeat the Terrorists and Build an Inclusive Democratic State


"America's task in Iraq is not only to defeat an enemy, it is to give strength to a friend -- a free, representative government that serves its people and fights on their behalf." -- President George W. Bush, May 24, 2004


Strategic Summary: Isolate, Engage, Build

The political track of our strategy is based on six core assumptions:


Our efforts and those of the Iraqis on the political track are geared toward isolating hard-core rejectionists by expanding avenues for political participation at all levels of government, engaging the region and all Iraqi communities to demonstrate that there is a place for all groups in the new Iraq, and building national Iraqi institutions and international support to advance the rule of law and offer the Iraqi people a solid framework for a better and more peaceful future.


Our Isolate, Engage, and Build strategy is working: Iraqis have hit every political benchmark in their transitional political process -- and are on track to hit the next one: elections in December to select a four-year government under a democratic constitution, with full participation from all of Iraq's main ethnic and religious communities.

As Iraq's political institutions mature, its judicial system has become an independent branch, better able to promote the rule of law:

International support for Iraq's political development is also growing:


Even with this solid progress, we and our Iraqi partners continue to face multiple challenges in the political sphere, including:


Strategic Summary: Clear, Hold, Build

The security track is based on six core assumptions:


We are helping the Iraqi Security Forces and the Iraqi government take territory out of enemy control (clear); keep and consolidate the influence of the Iraqi government afterwards (hold); and establish new local institutions that advance civil society and the rule of law in areas formerly under enemy influence and control (build).

Efforts on the security track include offensive operations against the enemy, protection of key communication and infrastructure nodes, post-conflict stabilization operations, and the training, equipping, and mentoring of Iraqi Security Forces. Coalition transition teams are embedded in all Iraqi Army battalions to provide assistance and guidance when needed. The model that works is clear -- it is resource intensive, requires commitment and resolve, and involves tools across the civilian and military spectrum, including:

How will this help the Iraqis -- with Coalition support -- defeat the ennemy and achieve our larger goals?


Our clear, hold, and build strategy is working:


Even with this progress, we and our Iraqi partners continue to face multiple challenges in the security sphere, including:

"My aim is 100 percent clear: all the terrorists living here, they go now. Saddam . . . it's finished. He's broken. Now is the new Iraq." -- Gen. Muhammad al-Sumraa, Iraq 303rd Battalion, Haifa Street, Baghdad, August 14, 2005


Strategic Summary: Restore, Reform, Build

The economic track is based on six core assumptions:


Our efforts have focused on helping Iraq restore its neglected infrastructure so it can provide essential services to the population while encouraging economic reforms, greater transparency, and accountability in the economic realm. The international community has been instrumental in these efforts, but there is room for the international community to do more. Foreign direct investment, over time, will play an increasing role in fueling Iraq's economic growth.


Our restore, reform, build, strategy is achieving results:


Even with this progress, Iraq continues to face multiple challenges in the economic sphere, including:


The 8 Strategic Pillars

Our strategy for victory along the political, security, and economic tracks incorporates every aspect of American power, with assistance from agencies throughout the federal government, and the involvement of the United Nations, other international organizations, Coalition countries, and other supportive countries and regional states. It is predicated on the belief that we must marshal these resources to help Iraqis overcome the challenges remaining before them.

1. Defeat the Terrorists and Neutralize the Insurgency

2. Transition Iraq to Security Self-Reliance

3. Help Iraqis Form a National Compact for Democratic Government

4. Help Iraq Build Government Capacity and Provide Essential Services

5. Help Iraq Strengthen its Economy

6. Help Iraq Strengthen the Rule of Law and Promote Civil Rights

7. Increase International Support for Iraq

8. Strengthen Public Understanding of Coalition Efforts and Public Isolation of the Insurgents

Each Strategic Pillar contains at least five independent lines of action and scores of sub-actions, with specific objectives being met by military and civilian volunteers, Iraqis, and our international partners.

"There's always a temptation, in the middle of a long struggle, to seek the quiet life, to escape the duties and problems of the world, and to hope the enemy grows weary of fanaticism and tired of murder. This would be a pleasant world, but it's not the world we live in. The enemy is never tired, never sated, never content with yesterday's brutality. This enemy considers every retreat of the civilized world as an invitation to greater violence. In Iraq, there is no peace without victory. We will keep our nerve, and we will win that victory." -- President George W. Bush, October 6, 2005

APPENDIX -- The Eight Pillars


Strategic Pillar One -- Defeat the Terrorists and Neutralize the Insurgency

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: Iraq is not a source of terrorists or terrorist resources, and neither terrorists, Saddamists, nor rejectionists are able to prevent Iraq's political and economic progress. They cannot stop the Iraqi government's development of a constitutional representative democracy, the provision of essential services, a market economy that provides goods, services, and employment for Iraqis, or the free flow of information and ideas.

Status: Increasingly capable Iraqi security forces are working with Coalition forces to disrupt enemy operations by preventing the establishment of enemy safe havens in Iraq and by providing enhanced protection of key infrastructure. They are disrupting enemy movements across borders and are applying pressure to stop the use of Syrian territory to facilitate terrorist activities in Iraq. As the Iraqi government establishes its authority, it generates -- with international assistance -- programs and projects to benefit the Iraqi people and isolate violent extremists from the population. As security improves, the United States will work with Iraqi authorities to strengthen provincial governments, especially through the use of project funding.

The United States is helping Iraq achieve this objective by pursuing the following lines of action:

"To be sure, the terrorists and insurgents are out to shake our will. But they will not succeed. The Iraqi people, enabled by the military and civilian members of the coalition, will succeed." -- General George Casey, Commander, US Forces in Iraq, June 2005


Strategic Pillar Two -- Transition Iraq to Security Self-Reliance

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: The Government of Iraq provides for the internal security of Iraq, monitors and controls its borders, successfully defends against terrorists and other security threats.

Status: Iraqi security forces, both military and police, are growing in capability through regular and challenging training. They are gaining operational experience to bring the fight directly to the enemies of democracy in Iraq. As Iraqi units become more capable, they are moving from fighting alongside Coalition forces, to taking the lead in operations against the enemy. As more units gain experience and grow more capable, Iraqis will take the lead in the bulk of operations, and Coalition forces will increasingly focus on specialized missions, such as killing or capturing Zarqawi and his henchmen.

The United States is helping Iraq achieve this objective by pursuing the following lines of action:

"The principal task of our military is to find and defeat the terrorists, and that is why we are on the offense.

And as we pursue the terrorists, our military is helping to train Iraqi security forces so that they can defend their people and fight the enemy on their own." -- President George W. Bush, June 28, 20055


Strategic Pillar Three -- Help Iraqis Forge a National Compact for Democratic Government

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: Iraq evolves into a free, federal, democratic, pluralist, and unified state representative of all Iraqi citizens.

Status: A generation of arbitrary and vicious rule by Saddam Hussein corrupted Iraq's public life and left most Iraqis with little trust in government institutions. Iraqis are now working to overcome this legacy, but their scarred history and rich diversity of religion, ethnicity, language, and experience requires sophisticated political arrangements to ensure that all Iraqis have a place in the new Iraq. The continuation of the political process, coupled with the emergence of compromises across ethnic and religious divides, is drawing in more and more Iraqis, including those who have only known violence as the final arbiter of any dispute.

The United States is helping Iraq achieve this objective through the following lines of action:

"This constitution is a national compact between the communities of Iraq, to have a roadmap for the future so they can live together in mutual respect and mutual tolerance. And that's why it's so important and . . . at the same time why it's so difficult." -- Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, Auugust 2005


Strategic Pillar Four -- Help Iraq Build Government Capacity and Provide Essential Services

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: The Iraqi government is able to provide essential services to the population of Iraq.

Status: Saddam Hussein pillaged Iraq's infrastructure and directed essential services to favored areas populated with Ba'ath party loyalists. This legacy is now further complicated by forces in Iraq that deliberately target civilian infrastructure to dishearten the public and weaken the central government.

These strains on Iraq's infrastructure are exacerbated by an ever-growing demand for electricity and fuel (resulting from an upward spiral of demand for new cars, generators, and air conditioners) and subsidies that make prices for power among the lowest in the world. These difficulties, among others, help explain why progress in these areas has not been as robust as some expected. Nevertheless, impressive gains are being made, with new schools and clinics opening and water projects and electricity generation coming on line.

The United States is helping Iraq achieve this objective through the following lines of action:

"As to the situation with infrastructure and services for Iraq, the United States, of course, has devoted $18.6 billion to reconstruction in Iraq, a good bit of that to water projects, to electricity. I think it's awfully important to step back and recognize that under Saddam Hussein this Iraqi infrastructure was seriously deteriorated. ... There is already a lot of work that has gone on on electricity, a lot of work that has gone on on water, from us, from the European Union, from other states." -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Juune 2005


Strategic Pillar Five -- Help Iraq Strengthen Its Economy

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: Iraqi government policies and legal framework support a market economy and robust private sector-led growth.

Status: Iraq has enormous economic potential, with an educated, young, and skilled work force and vast natural resources. But Iraq is struggling to reach its economic potential due largely to decades of dictatorship and neglect. Unemployment is high, which fuels popular dissatisfaction and may generate sympathy for the insurgency among some Iraqis. Changing these economic realities will require tough reforms, political will by the Iraqi government, a shift in expectations by the Iraqi people, and the help of the international community. Despite these challenges, Iraq's economy is growing, supporting new businesses every month. Through persistent diplomatic and financial efforts, Iraq is getting control of its once-enormous debt burden. Inflation remains in check, and the international financial institutions have expressed their confidence that Iraq is on the right track.

The United States is helping Iraq achieve this objective through the following lines of action:

"... The success of building the new Iraq includes ... the process of political change, which in Iraq is well on the way with the elections and inclusive government, and now a constitutional commission leading to the new constitution and referendum later in the year. But also an economic dimension, for reconstruction and creating opportunity and hope for the Iraqi people..." -- Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, July 2005


Strategic Pillar Six -- Help Iraq Strengthen the Rule of Law and Promote Civil Rights

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: Iraq reforms its legal system and develops institutions capable of addressing threats to public order. Iraq's government operates consistent with internationally recognized standards for civil rights and the rule of law.

Status: The "rule of law" as a concept denotes a government of laws, and not men. It is a concept that was born in Iraq, thousands of years ago, and also eviscerated there, over the past three decades, by Saddam Hussein. Iraq is now trying to reclaim its proud history. It is working to overcome the effects of tyranny by building a legal system that instills confidence in a new government, ensures that every person accused of a crime receives due process -- including fair, public, and transparent trials -- and a prison system that complies fully with international standards. The steps taken thus far include establishment of an independent judiciary, creation of the Central Criminal Court of Iraq and the Iraq Higher Tribunal, renovation and reconstruction of courthouses throughout Iraq, establishment of a reformed Iraq Correctional Service, and construction of modern civilian prison facilities.

The United States is helping Iraq achieve this objective by pursuing the following lines of action:

"One of the most important ways to fight terrorism is to promote democracy, and one of the most important ways to promote democracy is the rule of law. -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, July 2005


Strategic Pillar Seven -- Increase International Support for Iraq

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: The international community, countries in the region, and regional organizations support Iraq's attainment of democracy, prosperity, and security.

Status: Saddam Hussein's tyranny, wars of aggression, massive human rights violations, and defiance of Security Council resolutions made Iraq a pariah state. Iraq's nascent democracy is transforming itself into a fully functioning, engaged, and responsible member of the international community. Iraq has begun to rebuild its relationships with its neighbors and engage the international community. A series of international conferences and the steady development of Iraq's diplomatic relationships have greatly assisted this process. The June 2005 Brussels conference on Iraq, for example, was co-sponsored by the United States and the European Union, and attended by more than 80 countries and international organizations, demonstrating Iraq's revitalized international standing. The enactment in November of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1637, which reaffirmed unanimous support for Iraq's political process and the role of Coalition Forces in Iraq, provides strong international backing to Iraq's transition. So too does Resolution 1618, which unanimously condemned the terrorists operating in Iraq and called upon all nations to support the Iraqi government and stop the flow of terrorists into Iraq.

The United States is helping Iraq achieve this objective by pursuing the following lines of action:

"The work that America and our allies have undertaken, and the sacrifices we have made, have been difficult, and necessary, and right. Now is the time to build on these achievements, to make the world safer, and to make the world more free. We must use American diplomacy to help create a balance of power in the world that favors freedom. The time for diplomacy is now." -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, January 2005


Strategic Pillar Eight -- Strengthen Public Understanding of Coalition Efforts and Public

Isolation of the Insurgents

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVE: Widespread understanding in Iraq, the Arab world, and international arena of Iraq's successes in building democracy, prosperity, and security. Violent extremism is discredited within and outside Iraq. A professional and informative Iraqi news media has taken root.

Status: Successes in Iraq's political and economic development are overshadowed in the international media, including popular pan-Arab outlets, by a relentless focus on terrorist and extremist violence and a misleading spotlight on the disagreements among Iraqi politicians. This has contributed to an inaccurate and unbalanced view of developments in Iraq among many international audiences and within Iraq itself.

Since the fall of Saddam, hundreds of new independent media outlets have sprung up in Iraq. Their presence is a testament to the vitality of a free press, but their quality is often uneven and their level of professionalism could be improved. Together with our international partners, we are working to promote civic understanding and enable Iraq's public and private media institutions to flower.

The United States is helping Iraq achieve this objective by pursuing the following lines of action:

"America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, to attain their own freedom and to make their own way." -- President George W. Bush, January 2005