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Former Iraqi prime minister: "We have failed"

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

Appearing today at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, former Iraqi Prime Minister and serving parliamentarian Ayad Allawi stressed that the security gains of the "surge" are only temporary. The surge "did succeed from a military point of view," he told a small group of reporters before the event, but he emphasized that its gains could evaporate unless political reconciliation follows. "The first issue is reconciliation," he said in the public session. But sitting down with his "friends" such as current President Jalal Talabani won’t do the trick. "We need to sit with those people who have been disenfranchised," he said. "Except for terrorists."

More than 4 million Iraqis remain internal and external refugees, he repeated several times, and they need "security and stability" above all before they can return. Allawi isn't impressed by the current Iraqi army and police, which he views as sectarian. "Sectarianism is worse than terrorism," he said during the public question-and-answer session. "The militias are still roaming the streets in Iraq… In Basra, there are 13 kinds of militias, and only one was attacked."

Asked in multiple ways whether he agreed with Sen. Barack Obama's call for a 16-month timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, the former prime minister called for any such timetable to be linked to conditions. "I don't know how realistic 2010 is," he said. But when asked what his conditions would be, Allawi said that they go beyond internal factors, such as political reconciliation and nonsectarian institutions, to external issues. "There are regional powers who do not believe in reconciliation," he warned in the press meeting. Iraq needs to protect itself, but its military is not ready. "We haven't seen the Iraqi security forces yet in action," he said.

He blamed himself in part for Iraq's ongoing troubles. "We -- all of us -- we have failed in creating what we promised the Iraqi people."

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