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