Troop Cuts Shocker . . . Not So Shocking
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is expected to advise President Bush to reduce the U.S. force in Iraq next year by almost half, potentially creating a rift with top White House officials and other military commanders over the course of the war.
Administration and military officials say Marine Gen. Peter Pace is likely to convey concerns by the Joint Chiefs that keeping well in excess of 100,000 troops in Iraq through 2008 will severely strain the military. This assessment could collide with one being prepared by the U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, calling for the U.S. to maintain higher troop levels for 2008 and beyond.
Petraeus is expected to support a White House view that the absence of widespread political progress in Iraq requires several more months of the U.S. troop buildup before force levels are decreased to their pre-buildup numbers sometime next year.
The drama! The conflict! The intrigue!
Well, actually, this isn’t particularly shocking. Indeed, pretty much everyone has been saying this for weeks now.
Gates says troop drawdown possible (AP, Aug 5)
Defense Secretary Robert Gates . . . declined to predict that a drawdown of U.S. military forces in such a scenario would happen by year’s end. He cited some progress in reducing violence locally in regions such as Anbar Province, a former base of al-Qaida’s activities in Iraq. “There is a possibility,” Gates hedged, when asked in broadcast interviews if he considered a troop drawdown this year a “good possibility” or would bet on it.
Boozman says troop reduction likely after report (AP, Aug 15)
Arkansas Congressman John Boozman (BOZE’-mun) says a report expected next month on the war in Iraq will likely result in a reduction of forces in the country — no matter what the report actually says.
US Iraq Commanders Plan Troop Drawdown Next April (VOA, Aug 17)
Speaking via satellite from Baghdad, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno said forces sent to Iraq as part of the surge will end their tours of duty starting in April, and the current plan is not to replace them. “The decision is, if we decide to backfill those units,” he explained. “Right now, our plan is not to backfill those units. But General Petraeus, as we continue to make assessments, will make that decision.”
About one of the additional combat brigades will reach the end of its tour each month, which, along with support troops, would bring the U.S. troop total in Iraq down from the current level of 162,000 to about 132,000 by next August. “The surge, we know, as it is today, goes through April of ’08,” he said. “We believe at some time around that time we will begin to reduce our forces down to pre-surge level
General to urge cut in troops (The Australian, Aug 17)
THE US general overseeing President George W.Bush’s surge strategy in Iraq will recommend troop reductions by next northern summer, but has cautioned against a significant withdrawal. General David Petraeus, in comments that appeared to lay the ground for his pivotal report to the US Congress due next month, yesterday said the US footprint in Iraq would have to be “a good bit smaller by next summer”. But he also signalled the surge would continue into next year, and gave warning against a quick or hefty withdrawal that could surrender “the gains we have fought so hard to achieve”.
White House to Offer Iraq Plan of Gradual Cuts (NYT, Aug 18)
The White House plans to use a report next month assessing progress in Iraq to outline a plan for gradual troop reductions beginning next year that would fall far short of the drawdown demanded by Congressional opponents of the war, according to administration and military officials.
Bush May Reduce Troops, But Gradually (ABC News, Aug 18)
The Bush administration is expected to call for a gradual reduction of American troop levels in Iraq beginning next year, a move that falls short of the demands of critics in Congress seeking a major troop withdrawal.
U.S. could cut troop levels in Iraq next April (People’s Daily Online [China], Aug 18)
The United States will start cutting troop levels in Iraq next April, if the security situation there continues to improve, a senior U.S. general in Iraq said on Friday.
As the name implies, the Surge was always intended to be a short term spike in forces. Pretty much every knowledgeable observer has said that the current levels are not sustainable for very long. Now, it may be that Gates’ proposal would cut troop strength somewhat further than has previously been announced but, really, it’s just haggling over numbers.
That’s true, presuming the numbers reported by LAT are 1) accurate and 2) not merely a bargaining position aimed at getting to the numbers they really want. Further, it’s interesting that JCS is pushing back, especially since Pace has a reputation as a Yes man. Then again, there’s a CYA/worst case institutional mindset there that goes back since literally its creation.
Ultimately, though, to the extent President Bush is going to heed the advice of the military brass, he’s likely to pay attention to Petraeus and others in theater. Remember, the JCS is a bureaucratic planning institution, not part of the operational chain.