"officials here (Baghdad) are increasingly envisioning a "post-occupation" troop presence in Iraq that neither maintains current levels nor leads to a complete pullout, but aims for a smaller, longer-term force that would remain in the country for years.
This goal, drawn from recent interviews with more than 20 U.S. military officers and other officials here, including senior commanders, strategists and analysts, remains in the early planning stages. It is based on officials’ assessment that a sharp drawdown of troops is likely to begin by the middle of next year, with roughly two-thirds of the current force of 150,000 moving out by late 2008 or early 2009. The questions officials are grappling with are not whether the U.S. presence will be cut, but how quickly, to what level and to what purpose." Ricks
Is this a joke? Is Ricks being ironic here? Is this a "take off" on an Evelyn Waugh novel?
For years the declared US policy in Iraq was based on the idea that the US would remove its troops when the forces of the Baghdad government could control the security situation on their own.
Now, Ricks implies that American military officers (who should have some grasp of the realities of the situation) are saying (without qualification as to the future state of affairs) that US forces WILL be withdrawn on a schedule that evidently has nothing to do with the combat situation in the country.
A couple of things:
– This withdrawal talk must be based on the assumption that the present Petraeus/Keane/Kagan plan will succeed in "breaking the back" of the insurgents. There is no real evidence for that so far, so one must assume that the supposed "improvement" is what is called a "planning assumption." A military plan exists within a universe created by assumptions about the world in which the plan will be executed. Thus, there can be several different plans designed to deal with a situation and they may be different because they are based on different assumptions. These assumptions are listed in the front of a published plan.
– If the combat situation is not improved by the time the imagined withdrawal is taking place it will quickly become apparent that such a withdrawal will result in the collapse of what is left of Iraq into an even greater chaos. That will stop the withdrawal.
– The idea of trying to leave one division plus advisors plus logistical troops and contractors is absurd if the assumption in the planning concept is incorrect.
– Surely, military people in Iraq know that this is a foolish idea in the absence of an effective "cease-fire." Do they know something that we do not? That is always a possibility.
– The probability that this planning assumption is politically imposed by the desire of the sitting government in Washington to be successful in both the GWOT and the ’08 election is overwhelming.
Anyone who thinks this "plan" is a good idea should think about what the personal consequences might be for advocating something this silly. pl