U.S. Troop Reduction in Iraq

Don’t look now but U.S. troop levels in Iraq are getting smaller.

Photo George Casey and Don Rumsfeld Army General George Casey (L) speaks as U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld watches during their joint news conference at the Pentagon in Washington June 22, 2006. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES) The top U.S. commander in Iraq predicted on Thursday that the size of the U.S. fighting force will shrink this year, although he said he had not made new recommendations to his Pentagon bosses on the size and timing of any cuts. “I’m confident that we’ll be able to continue to take reductions over the course of this year,” Army Gen. George Casey told a Pentagon news conference with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at his side.

Rumsfeld said Casey had not yet had sufficient time to consult with the new Iraqi government, but that in any case the size of the U.S. force is likely to rise and fall in coming months, depending on political and security conditions. “It will very likely not be a steady path down,” Rumsfeld said. “It could very likely be a drawdown with an increase.” Noting that there now are 126,900 U.S. troops in Iraq, he said: “It could very well go back up at some point. It very likely will go down and up and down and up depending on the circumstances and depending on the need.”

Casey, who said more than once last year that he expected to see “fairly substantial” U.S. troop reductions during spring and summer of 2006, noted that the force has dropped from about 138,000 in March to 126,900 now. “Whether that’s ‘fairly substantial’ enough, I’ll leave to your judgment,” he said. “As I said, I think there will be continued gradual reductions here as the Iraqis take on a larger and larger role.”

Casey also said that members of the Sunni insurgency have been reaching out to the new Iraqi government, giving U.S. military commanders opportunities to forge communications with the resistance groups.

This is good news and consistent with longstanding plans. Finally, after some false starts, it appears that the indigenous Iraqi security forces are getting strong enough to handle operations in most areas on their own. There are, of course, problems with infiltration by guerrillas; still, it’s a major step forward.

I’ll leave the photo above for Rodney Dill.

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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:

    Headline would more accurately read: “Don�t look now but U.S. troop levels in Iraq are going to go down and up and down and up depending on the circumstances and depending on the need.�

    But then it wouldn’t be worth posting about, would it?

  2. madmatt says:

    21000 troops being told to prepare for activation and to be sent in the next couple of months

  3. Rodney Dill says:

    Too easy.

  4. While many have focused on the opposing choices of whether we should remain in Iraq without a deadline for withdrawal vs. whether we should establish some deadline to withdraw…there may be something else at play. Read an analysis that explains how Iraq may be the focal point of a Republican October surprise…here:

    http://www.thoughttheater.com

  5. Mark says:

    “on their own” isn’t quite right. Intel, logistics, air support, etc. are all still being provided by us.

  6. Daniel,
    Interesting article and I suspect that if correct, it will trip up not just dems in 2006, but dem candidates in 2008. Only Hillary seems to be maneuvering to stay out of the trap, for which she is paying a current price. But with 47% definitely won’t vote for her, she isn’t likely to be able to capitalize on this in a general election.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Mark:

    Fair point. And they likely will be from the FOBs for quite some time. Train-up time to competence is much longer for that and we’re quite good at it.

    Still, that’s a much less visible and incendiary role.