Removing Combat Brigades from Iraq
Barack Obama has been President Elect for just two days and already we’re reducing the number of combat brigades in Iraq:
Gen. David H. Petraeus has decided to reduce the number of U.S. combat brigades in Iraq from 15 to 14 about six weeks earlier than planned, as a result of dramatically lower violence there, Pentagon officials said yesterday.
“The hope is they can come home before Christmas,” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said of the decision.
The plan accelerates the withdrawal from Iraq of a 101st Airborne Division brigade of 3,500 to 4,000 troops that will not be replaced. Another brigade from the 10th Mountain Division that was scheduled to go to Iraq in its place will instead deploy to Afghanistan, as announced earlier this fall.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has stated that further increases in U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan — where American commanders say they need three more brigades and thousands of support forces to combat a growing insurgency — will be contingent upon further withdrawals from Iraq next year.
Underpinning the decision to speed the brigade’s return is a continuing drop in attacks and troop casualties in Iraq, officials said. October had fewer than 1,000 “security incidents” nationwide in Iraq, the lowest monthly number since January 2004, Morrell said.
I’ve said for a long time that regardless of who was president events would determine our course of action in Iraq because that’s what our national interests require. Right now that’s moving in the direction of reducing our footprint in Iraq. How far and how fast that will proceed depends mostly on how stable and peaceful Iraq is and I continue to believe that will be true whether President Bush or President Obama is sitting in the Oval Office.
I only wish that more thought were being given to our strategic objectives in Afghanistan. Does increasing the number of combat troops in Afghanistan further those objectives? Or does it just provide the space for our presumed allies to reduce the size of their commitments? Does that further our strategic objectives?