18 July Washington Post commentary - The Price Of Success In Iraq by Anthony Cordesman.

The United States and the government of Iraq should have a common goal: To restore Iraq to full sovereignty and withdraw American forces as soon as the insurgency is defeated or contained and Iraqi forces are able to take over the security mission -- and as soon as the United States is reasonably confident that Iraq has reached some degree of political stability.

But there is a price that U.S. forces will have to pay to have any chance of serious success. It is this: If an amnesty that brings insurgents into the Iraqi political process is possible, the United States cannot indulge in political posturing over whether some of the insurgents who join the government are people who attacked and wounded or killed Americans.

Violent terrorists and extremists will be excluded from such Iraqi proposals in any case. But there are a significant number of Sunnis and other insurgents who saw the United States as an invader, an "occupier" and a "crusader," and who saw their struggle as a war.

This will mean amnesty for some who struck American as well as Iraqi targets. There are as many as 20 such Sunni movements, and ultimately some Shiite elements may be involved. If Iraq is to have peace and reach a stable series of political compromises, these insurgents need to be brought into the political process. They need to be treated as combatants and not as criminals or terrorists.

This not only is the best way to minimize future U.S. casualties, it is also the best way to give meaning to the sacrifices of American soldiers. The goal and purpose of their service is a free Iraq, not punishing the enemy...