- First, a residual force of 35,000 to 50,000, remaining in the country from August of 2010 until the deadline spelled out in the status of forces agreement, the end of 2011, keeps a significant force in Iraq for more than an additional year: up to a third of the total in Iraq at its peak.
- The Administration insists these are not combat troops but will be there in a training and advisory capacity. Those of us of a certain age remember the casualties our advisors took in Vietnam before we sent the first combat troops in; as General Petraeus at CENTCOM is well aware (having literally written the book, or rather the Field Manual, on Counterinsurgency), and as General Odierno, designer of the surge, is also well aware, in a counterinsurgency there are no front lines. In the age of the IED, everyone is a combat soldier. Our advisors will presumably include some assigned to Iraqi combat units. So what we are really looking at is a drawdown of deployed forces by two-thirds between now and next August, and reports indicate only about two brigades will be withdrawn before the end of this year.
- I think it is pretty well understood in Washington that Gates has wanted to draw down in Iraq since early in his term at the Pentagon; and let's remember that it was the Bush Administration that negotiated the Status of Forces Agreement setting a 2011 date for full departure, so the drawdown is really not a very radical one. But it does make it clear that the US plans to leave, and that may help defuse some of the fury in the Arab world about the US as an occupying power.
Friday, February 27, 2009
President Obama's announcement of details of the Iraq drawdown at Camp Lejeune today didn't add much to what had already leaked during the week, but a few comments may be in order: