Bush Pauses Iraq Troop Cutbacks, Shortens Deployments

We’ll continue to have large numbers of troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future but deployments will be cut to one year, President Bush announced today.

President Bush on Thursday ordered an indefinite halt in U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq after July, embracing the key recommendations of his top war commander. Bush said Gen. David Petraeus will “have all the time he needs” to consider when more American forces could return home.

Bush’s decisions virtually guarantee a major U.S. presence in Iraq throughout his term in office in January, when a new president takes office.

In another major decision, the president announced he will seek to relieve the heavy strain on the Army by reducing the length of combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan to 12 months, down from the current level of 15 months. He said the change would take effect on Aug. 1, and would not affect U.S. forces already deployed on the front lines.

Bush said U.S. forces have made major gains since he ordered a buildup of about 30,000 U.S. forces last year. “We have renewed and revived the prospect of success” the president said.

Not particularly surprising. It has been a virtual certainty for months that we’ll maintain a large troop presence in Iraq well into the next presidential term. Indeed, I wouldn’t be terribly shocked if that’s still the case come the 2012 elections.

The shorter deployments will only alleviate the strain on the Army if the length between rotations remains constant. Shorter tours with shorter breaks between them might actually be worse. A page 1 report in today’s WaPo by Peter Baker and Jonathan Weisman says that this will simply be a return to pre-Surge rotation of “an equal balance of one year in the war zone followed by one year at home.”

FILED UNDER: General, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    A page 1 report in today’s WaPo by Peter Baker and Jonathan Weisman says that this will simply be a return to pre-Surge rotation of “an equal balance of one year in the war zone followed by one year at home.”

    Wasn’t just such a change proposed by congressional democrats not that long ago?

  2. James Joyner says:

    Wasn’t just such a change proposed by congressional democrats not that long ago?

    I think moving back to pre-Surge levels was always the plan.

  3. Michael says:

    I think moving back to pre-Surge levels was always the plan.

    I was talking about the change back to 12 months on, 12 months off, I don’t recall that being tied to the surge plans.

  4. mike says:

    Keeping troops there at the pre-surge level into the next presidency is a win-win for Bush – if the next president withdraws troops and things go badly, Bush can say “I told you so” and if the next president withdraws troops and things go well, Bush can say “I told you my plan worked”. There is no incentive to actually coming up with a real plan and attempting to fix the mess, well, except to save billions of dollars and more importantly service members’ life and limbs.

  5. James Joyner says:

    I was talking about the change back to 12 months on, 12 months off, I don’t recall that being tied to the surge plans.

    Going to 15 months was part of how we managed to man the surge — we kept existing people there additional months and brought others in early.

  6. Michael says:

    Going to 15 months was part of how we managed to man the surge — we kept existing people there additional months and brought others in early.

    Okay, after some googling I finally found the connection. While the 15 month deployments weren’t part of the original surge plan, but a consequence of it, it was projected to last only for the duration of the surge.

    Still, it’s good to know that our soldiers are getting some kind of good news.

  7. fester says:

    It’s really not good news, just a diminuation of bad news. Army doctrine has a unit out of combat 2:1 compared to in-combat/deployment time as best practice and now we are moving from 1:1.3 to 1:1.