Lessons Learned? The U.S. Withdrawal from Iraq and What It May Mean for Afghanistan

book cover: Ending the U.S. War in Iraq

Presented by the Woodrow Wilson Center and the RAND Corporation


Tuesday, November 5, 2013


12:00 p.m. – 1:20 p.m.


Wilson Center, 6th Floor Auditorium
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

Can the impending transition of major combat forces out of Afghanistan be informed by lessons learned during the U.S. military-diplomatic transition in Iraq? Ending the U.S. war in Iraq was a massive, complex undertaking that posed daunting challenges for U.S. government policymakers, as the military not only was involved with security-related activities but also assisted in political and economic functions across Iraq.

A new RAND study being released at this joint Woodrow Wilson Center/RAND Corporation event, Ending the U.S. War in Iraq: The Final Transition, Operational Maneuver, and Disestablishment of United States Forces–Iraq (by Richard R. Brennan, Jr., Charles P. Ries, et al.), examines the planning and execution of the U.S. military's exit from Iraq, and the transition of responsibilities to the Iraqi government and other U.S. departments and agencies.

This event will explore how our experience in the military exit and the transition of responsibilities in Iraq might help to inform future U.S. transition planning in Afghanistan.

Come hear a presentation outlining the lessons identified in the new book by RAND co-author Ambassador Charles Ries, former Coordinator for Economic Transition in Iraq at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, followed by a panel discussion moderated by journalist Tara McKelvey with Ries; Major General Jeffrey Buchanan, former Director of Strategic Effects (J9) for U.S. Forces in Iraq; and Middle East policy expert Kenneth M. Pollack, formerly with the CIA and the National Security Council.

View the Video Directions to the Wilson Center

About the Panelists

Ambassador Charles Ries is the vice president, International at the RAND Corporation, where he oversees RAND's non-U.S. offices and growing international presence, and a senior fellow whose research has focused on the economics of development. While on a leave of absence from RAND in 2010, Ries was executive vice president of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

Ries' three decades in the U.S. diplomatic service included an assignment as Coordinator for Economic Transition in Iraq at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad (2007–2008), where he was responsible for oversight and coordination of assistance and economic policy initiatives. For his service in Iraq, he received the Department of the Army's Outstanding Civilian Service Award. Read his full bio »

Major General Jeffrey S. Buchanan currently serves as the Commanding General, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region, the U.S. Army Military District of Washington. From 2003-2004 Major General Buchanan was assigned to the United States Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, as the Director of Combat Developments, but served most of that year deployed to Iraq as the Director of Operations (C3), Coalition Military Assistance Training Team. Between 2004 to 2006, he commanded the 2nd Brigade, 75th Division (TSB) and deployed a second time to Iraq to serve as an advisor to the Iraqi Special Police Commando Division. Upon his return, he served as the Director of Operations for U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas until November of 2007.

From 2007 through 2009, he served as Deputy Commanding General for the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, NY, including a deployment to Iraq as the Multi-National Division-South. Following an assignment as the G-3/5/7 for the United States Army Reserve Command, he returned to Iraq as the Director of Strategic Effects (J9), U.S. Forces Iraq, from July 2010 to December 2011. Read his full bio »

Kenneth M. Pollack is an expert on Middle Eastern political-military affairs, with particular emphasis on Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the other nations of the Persian Gulf region. Pollack has twice served on the staff of the National Security Council. In 1995-1996, he was director for Near East and South Asian Affairs, and in 1999-2001 he served as director for Persian Gulf Affairs. In this latter capacity, he was the principal working-level official for U.S. policy toward Iraq, Iran, Yemen and the Gulf Cooperation Council States at the White House. He is currently a senior fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. Pollack served as the director of the Saban Center from 2009 to 2012, and its director of research from 2002 to 2009. His most recent book is Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy. Read his full bio »


The distinguished panel will be moderated by Tara McKelvey, a feature writer for BBC News. She used to be a correspondent for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. She is also is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review and has reported from the Middle East, South Asia, and Russia. A 2011 Guggenheim fellow, McKelvey is the author of Monstering: Inside America's Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War (Basic Books). In 2012 she was a Public Policy Scholar in International Security Studies at the Wilson Center and a fellow at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University.