requiring that all American forces be withdrawn from Iraq by a specified date. This plays right into not only Shia militia leaders like Muqtada al-Sadr, but the Sunni insurgents as well, be they Iraqi Baathists, Islamists or the al-Qaeda in Iraq group. Once they know when American forces will be gone, they will use that as a planning date for their operations. Their goal will be to survive until that date, knowing that afterwards they will only be confronting Iraqi forces. When the Americans mount offensives between now and then, the insurgents will melt away, waiting out the mandated and published American timetable.
This does not solve the problem; it merely defers it to the future. Both sides in the Iraqi civil war are waiting for their moment. Up until the U.S. Congress imposes a mandatory withdrawal date, the Shia would have been content to lay low while American troops focus on the Sunnis. Now the Sunnis have the same option.
The Congress will be giving both sides hope – with good reason. I have problems with the Pentagon’s conduct of the war, but this action on the part of Congress will guarantee failure in Iraq. This is bad strategy.