"The commander, Gen. Ray Odierno, said American troops would remain at numerous security outposts in order to help support and train Iraqi forces. “We believe that’s part of our transition teams,” he told reporters in Balad while accompanying Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who arrived on an unannounced trip Saturday.
General Odierno declined to say how many American troops might remain in Iraqi cities past the summer and said the number still remained to be negotiated with the Iraqi government under the terms of the so-called "status of forces agreement." “But what I would say is we’ll maintain our very close partnership with the Iraqi security forces throughout Iraq even after the summer.”" Bumiller in Wapo
This is not a change in policy, a variation from what Obama has been saying, or any different from what I have been saying will inevitably be the force posture in Iraq in the interim period between withdrawal of American combat units from the cities and the more or less complete departure of such units from the country in the time frame specified in the SOFA and strategic relationship agreements.
People in the press seem incapable of expressing a complex thought. When they speak of the intelligence world they always talk or write about "information gathering" as a description of the intelligence process. When they do that, they condition the public to imagine that the intelligence process is something like a pack of bloodhounds on the trail of information. In fact, the intelligence process is a cycle of collection-analysis-dissemination-re-tasking-collection-analysis, etc. In the same way, the press keeps saying that American forces will be out of the towns by next summer when what has been agreed is that major American COMBAT UNITS would be out of the towns by then. "Combat units" means battalions, brigades, regiments (marnies). Get the picture? It was never going to be agreed, nor was it, that advisers (called transition teams here), trainers, supply people and other odd support folks were going to be out of the towns for a couple of years. That might have made sense politically to some people but it would not make sense in the context of continuing to create security forces for Iraq. Odierno seems to have a less than felicitous way with the language (English) but I doubt if he and Gates will differ much on this issue.
Someone wrote to me about Afghanistan saying that an "economy of force" and limited resources strategy that employs a lot of Afghan government and tribal forces might be appropriate for Afghanistan rather than a continuation that centers on A LOT MORE American conventional forces. I think that is right, but that is a POLICY DECISION that should be made by the elected US Government. The key factor in making such a decision should be a clear vision of the US goal in Afghanistan. Once that is decided, then it will not be difficult to decide what kind of strategy should be followed. pl