“Iraq exit logistics” de Borchgrave

Fezb_903_1_logistics20photo_2 "Watching them drive by at 30 miles per hour, would take 75 days. Bumper-to-bumper, they would stretch from New York City to Denver. That’s how U.S. Air Force logistical expert Lenny Richoux described the number of vehicles that would have to be shipped back from Iraq when the current deployment is over. These include, among others, 10,000 flatbed trucks, 1,000 tanks and 20,000 Humvees.Even in an emergency, said Col. Richoux in DefenseNews, the evacuation of 162,000 troops in 23 ground combat brigades and millions of tons of equipment would take some 20 months. Military shipping containers, end to end, would stretch from New York City to the gates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The main resupply route for convoys that runs 344 miles from Kuwait (skirts Basra to the north) to Baghdad is already under the constant threat of hit-and-run insurgency attacks, including improvised explosive devices. Driving empty, on their way back to pick up another load in Kuwait, convoys are just as vulnerable.  Arnaud de Borchgrave


I guess it was to be expected that a journalist who flew into the airstrip at Dien Bien Phu the day the French paratroops seized the place would take an interest in the hard realities of military operations.  Nevertheless, I am gratified and grateful that he has written this very useful piece.  It tells the story so well that I am relieved of the burden of trying to write it myself.  As I said at the Miller Center last week, I was an intelligence officer but always was "logistics driven" in my thinking.

The Democrats who talk about leaving about leaving Iraq by the end of 2008 are as deluded as the Republicans who think that Iraq is South Korea. 

The United States can not afford to run helter skelter for the door in Kuwait.  There are a myriad of geo-political reasons why that is true, but looming alongside that set of reasons is the fact that we can not afford to depart militarily in other than an organized, rational, carefully planned way.  To do otherwise is to court a collapse of the internal situation into a chaos that would make present events seem mild.

And then there are "our things."  As De Borchgrave explains, there are a vast number of armored vehicles, trucks, Strykers, and aircraft in Iraq that the United States can not afford to lose.  These things need to be brought back to the US for factory re-build so that the taxpayer’s money will not be wasted buying analogous equipment.  Pacifists will argue that it would be better to leave the equipment because we should "study war no more."  That concept is as unrelated to reality as the Jacobin flathead view of a homogeneous mankind.

The road out of Iraq will require several years for a safe passage. pl


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63 Responses to “Iraq exit logistics” de Borchgrave

  1. JohnH says:

    Once again the WWI soldiers’ song rings true: we’re there because we’re there. Talk about absurd!
    And to think that Vichy Democrats want to attack Iran!

  2. Clausewitz says:

    To my mind, these facts make it plain that: 1) the logistics of an orderly withdrawal should have been thought out and implemented long ago; 2) they weren’t because US policy is set by reactionary idiots; and 3) the implications for an utter debacle increase by several geometric factors as a result.

  3. jonst says:

    Would that pacifists (however divorced from reality they may or may not be)have even to mentioned in the same breath with the flatheads. Pacifists(for better or worse) have as much influence on day to day events as do the members of The Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

  4. CSTAR says:

    Pacifists will argue that it would be better to leave the equipment because we should “study war no more.”
    Now that is a strawman argument if I ever saw one, and I’m surprised to see you propose it so cavalierly and thoughtlessly. First of all, as a question of environmental responsibility, most war opponents would insist on the removal or at least proper disposal of all that crap.
    As to the rapid extrication of US forces, surely there has to be some contingency planning which involves leaving behind all that materiel. For example, lets say (conservatively I believe) that there is a supply of 5000 suicide bombers that are deployable to Baghdad, What would the US military do in a tet-offensive scenario consisting of (hundreds of) waves of suicide bombers used to blast through the green zone on several fronts? How is an orderly rational withdrawal going to happen then?
    Lang you really have to do better than that.

  5. DaveGood says:

    It should be remembered that the USA actually spent five years pulling out it’s troops and equipment from Vietnam before the USA embassy fell.
    And that Soviet Russia withdrew its forces from Afghanistan over a period of twenty months.. and all Russia had to do was drive it’s equipment and men across the border.
    The thought that America has (say) five years to pull out millions of tons of equipment plus tens of thousands of personnel in an orderly fashion is”optimistic”.
    Most of that stuff will be left there.
    America’s Army, a few years from now will look like the British Army after the evacuation from Dunkirk.
    We got the men out… but not the equipment that made them an army.
    PL knows better then I do how badly worn and damaged the US armies heavy equipment is….. I understand that literally thousands of vehicles of all kinds are piled up at US depots right now awaiting a total rebuild.
    You can write off the bulk of the US heavy equipment as of now, most of it will not be coming back from Iraq in any sort of condition to be re-used.
    You might also want to consider the fact that the average age of an airframe in the US Airforce is now 24 years old.
    As a rule, civilian aircraft are retired before they get that old.
    As for the cost of replacing all that expensive stuff…. Good luck.

  6. Actually the National Guard needs the equipment since it appears they only have 50% or less of their assigned equipment needs.
    Disasters can always occur domestically.

  7. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Well, Pilgrim. You ARE ill mannered. You just have to avoid hitting the post key twice in the future. (among other things)
    Actually –
    1 – US forces withdrew from VN over a three year perion beginning in 1969 and ending in 1973. I believe I have pointed that out before. During that period of time the US evacusted what equipment it wished to turned over the rest to the SVN forces complete with factory maintenance services for it.
    2- There then ensued a two year period of quiet in SVN under the cease fire agreement, followed by Congress’ prohibition on any further aid of any kind for SVN. The North Vietnamese then attacked and over ran the country capturing all that equipment in the process. At that time there ahd been no US combat forces in the country for two years.
    “You can write off the bulk of the US heavy equipment as of now, most of it will not be coming back from Iraq in any sort of condition to be re-used.”Nonsense.
    Jonst, if pacifists do not want to be grouped as imbeciles with the flatheads, then they should try to get a grip on reality. pl

  8. DaveGood says:

    Fair enough PL.
    Do you think the USA will have four years to run an organised withdrawal … plus another two of relative peace afterwards? (While handing over large chunks of Material that they couldn’t ship, to the Iraqi Government)?
    Mr. Lang…….. The discussion here is not how America’s armed services can “Win” in Iraq.
    It’s now about how America… ( And my own country)… can salvage what it can from the catastrophe.

  9. mike says:

    If the US army is so deeply committed in Iraq, and shall remain so for a number of years – indeed for the foreseable future (since there are no current declarations from any potential presidential candidate) – what happens if there is in some other part of the globe for military action by the US involving ground troops?

  10. Steve says:

    The reason no logistical withdrawl plan was made under President George W Bush is quite simple. There will be no withdrawl until every drop of ME crude has been pumped. This is why we are there, and this is why we will stay. Period.

  11. Will says:

    little known facts about Arnaud de Borchgrave
    from the wiki
    “Born in Belgium to a Belgian count, Baudouin de Borchrave d’Altena, who was head of Belgium’s military intelligence for the government in exile, during World War II. Arnaud de Borchgrave was educated in Belgium, Britain and the United States.
    He served in the British Royal Navy from 1942 to 1946, at the age of 15, after running away from home and using falsified papers on his age to enlist in the service. He gave up his title of nobility in 1951.[1]
    In 1947, he was appointed Brussels bureau chief for United Press International, and three years later he became Newsweek’s bureau chief in Paris and then chief correspondent. In 1953 he became a senior editor for the magazine. The Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek once said that “De Borchgrave has played a role in world affairs known to no other journalist. He has been able to tap the thinking of numerous world leaders… despite his intimacy with major policymakers, he has never aligned himself with either side of a dispute… Arnaud de Borchgrave has made significant contributions to world peace and understanding.”

  12. Bill W, NH says:

    I was at DaNang Air Base when the war was declared over on or about Jan 18th, 1973. We were ordered to be out of there not later than Mar 29th, same year, about 45 days all told. We left a lot of “stuff” there and I had to spend my last two weeks there shredding paperwork by hand. I myself left on the 29th of March, bound for NKP, Thailand. I could go on and on about the absurdities of that situation. I doubt it will happen that way in Iraq but, yes, you can get out rather quickly.

  13. eaken says:

    With all due respect, please tell me how you envision the process of deciding which of the supposed 5000 suicide bombers would go in first? Straws?

  14. Will says:

    Monseiur Anraud is speaking for effect. Of course an extraction need not be single file nor need it be back thru Kuwait.
    Consider von Manstein’s extraction of the Caucus group and the remainder of the German forces after the surrender at Stallingrad. He was able to stabilize the front and even to envelop the advancing soviets and inflict severe losses on them at Kharkov.
    A retreat can be toward Anbar with extraction thru Jordan at the red sea port. There would be plenty of room to maneuver, favorable air support circumstances, and avoidance of Shiite civilians. The 75 days timeframe is for emphasis. It is just another way of saying two months- a not unreasonable time frame.
    Water and fuel baloons would have to be dropped by air.

  15. W. Patrick Lang says:

    What you are describing is the retreat of a defeated army. Manstein? The Caucasus? Stalingrad?
    I don’t believe that you are serious. pl

  16. Cold War Zoomie says:

    This part stuck out to me:
    ‘”The time for half-measures and experiments is over,” they argue. Now’s the time “for a logistically sound strategic redeployment.”‘
    And it’s in the Washington Times, no less.

  17. Jose says:

    Will, IMHO, we are not yet in such a Strategic position for American forces to withdrawal in defeat just yet.
    Maybe when we bomb Iran.
    So is Patreus a von Mainstein or a Model?

  18. Walrus says:

    It appears that others are now sharing some of my deeper concerns.
    That is that we are making a bold assumption when we assume that America will get to choose the time it begins withdrawing.
    De Borchgrave has just outlined the scale of the amount of treasure that will be left behind, let alone the casualties, if the decision is forced on us by circumstances.
    The Greeks didn’t dream up Hubris and Nemesis out of thin air.

  19. McGee says:

    We could always follow De Gaulle’s example when he withdrew Franch forces from NATO Command and they left their bases in Gemany – drive the excess equipment into very large holes, cover with dirt, and leave.
    c’est la vie….

  20. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    The Hasidic Jews of Satmar recently have issued an analytical statement focusing on strategic intelligence in the Middle East. Their analysis, if correct, suggests that events will soon take place that will threaten the supply line between Baghdad and Basra. In my opinion, their analytical statement is an extraordinary development because these devout Hasidic Jews — the vast majority of whom live in the US — are extremely dedicated to a religious life and, as is their right in a land of religious liberty, prefer not to partake in a political or secular life. The fact they have issued such a statement suggests the extreme concern they have for all the people in the Middle East as well as all Americans. I cannot overemphasize this point:
    The analytical statement by Satmar suggests that the Wurmser option is becoming operational. An attack on Iran would threaten the logistics now in place in Iraq and lead to a terrible loss of US lives in Iraq. It will also lead to asymmetrical attacks against the West. In an article in the Christian Science Monitor, Col. Lang wrote about the catastrophic consequences of severing the supply line. William Land has also written the same.
    One last point. I am not a theologian and I don’t know if the underlying assumptions of Satmar are correct, even with regard to Zionism. But I do know that these Hasidic Jews believe that they are under an oath to be loyal to and empathetic with the nation in which they reside while, of course, maintaining a very Jewish identity. It is our duty as Americans to treat them the same. And when it comes to the welfare of the Jewish people, at this point, I just trust Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum more than I do Pastor Hagee. And their analysis appears to show more concern for Americans than anything Pastor Hagee or David Wurmser has done of late, at least in my opinion and based on an analysis I have read at sst. These Hasidic Jews are warning America the best they can from their analytical perspective, and I appreciate it.

  21. Rob says:

    Yes as I remember being told at the Naval War College about winning wars, “Junior combat officers will ask what the combat strategy is. Senior combat officers will ask, what the logistics strategy is…
    We win wars by logistics and I agree if we do pull out we need to do it orderly and with the assets we have in theater it would take about three years.
    But do not be deluded to think we will totally pull out. That is not going to happen no matter who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We have to much at stake and too much money and assets in Iraq to do such. We morally owe the Iraqi people a working government that “THEY” can live with. How we achieve that is the big question.
    While I believe we will militarily end up as we did in Europe after WWII.

  22. Brian Hart says:

    Presumably much of our humvee fleet would be given to the Iraqi army as we did with Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines not to mention WWII Europe. Its the cheapest and speediest way to upgrade our allies – besides they have a 2.5 year useful life at this point.
    Further it seems most likely Iraq will fragment. Thus we will likely have at least bases in Kurdish areas if not others if we want them.
    If we air attack Iran in 2008 before Bush leaves office, what prevents the Iranian Revolutionary Guard from taking off the gloves, arming Shia in Iraq to the teeth with EFPs and RPG-29s and then using these surrogates to cut off our extended MSR Tampa convoys with channeling bridge destruction and urban ambushes?

  23. Dan M says:

    Good grief…
    “For example, lets say (conservatively I believe) that there is a supply of 5000 suicide bombers that are deployable to Baghdad, What would the US military do in a tet-offensive scenario consisting of (hundreds of) waves of suicide bombers used to blast through the green zone on several fronts?”
    I think I played this video game once. What you do is you shoot them all with 50 cals before they reach your perimeter.

  24. meletius says:

    20 months just to get the gear out, eh?
    I guess this is why they’re called “foreign entanglements”.

  25. VietnamVet says:

    Reminiscences at times can illuminate the future. My battalion was trying to pacify a valley in II Corps when I left in June 1970; not unlike the Surge if you discount the Sand, Contractors and an Arab Capitol. American troops were withdrawn and the valley retaken by the Communists in 1972 Offensive.
    With the leading Democratic Politicians planning to stay in Iraq till 2013, the river of blood and treasure will continue indefinitely. To pacify the populace, ethnic cleansing will continue and to quench the flow of blood American troops will retreat to their Sand Castles in Al Anbar and Kurdistan. Resistance will continue against the Christian Overlords, till finally broke and exhausted, America leaves the Middle East.
    But, to quote Dick Cheney’s top aide: “We’re one bomb away” from our goal. The draft, total war and American domination of Middle East Oil.

  26. Mark Gaughan says:

    Precisely pl

  27. Kunu-ri says:

    “This is an alternative to the road south to Kuwait now. Payed for with the “Anbar awekening” money. In emergencies, the Turks will agree to route north too.”
    I have to take everything you guys say with a grain of salt and an open mind, but when you mention the “The Turks”, I have to volonteer a bit of insider opinion.
    To all, Turks are sore as hell, and mad as hell. Albay Lang should be privvy to this. Nothing in the US mainstream media is reflecting accurately the true situation in Turkey.

  28. Yohan says:

    Couldn’t most of the units move north into Kurdistan relatively quickly, where they could stage for the eventual departure north through Turkey? That route would be much less dangerous than heading back to Kuwait and I’m sure Turkey would be much happier to stage our exit than they were our entry.
    Or, perhaps, could the US avoid the freeways entirely and drive through the western desert like some units did during the invasion?
    What are the logistics of leaving behind about 10,000-20,000 for anti-terror or other stabilization operations?

  29. Yohan says:

    In the limited discussion that I’ve seen in the public sphere about withdrawal, very little is devoted to critical thought on what a post-occupation Iraq might look like. Most people merely assume that there will be massive chaos, genocide, civil war, terrorists, etc., but it’s never expanded upon. I’m not saying it can’t happen that way, but the fact that it’s just presented and accepted as a matter of faith doesn’t sit right with me, I’d like to see some smart, informed people dig deeply into this issue.
    My limited attempt on the issue is to compare Iraq to past post-occupation situations:
    Most US troops were out of South Vietnam by 72 when PAVN forces launched a massive offensive on the South, the Nguyen Hue Offensive. They were stopped and in many places pushed back mostly by ARVN ground forces and US air power. The southern government lasted for another 3 years. Could the US employ a similar strategy to defend a favored Baghdad government? What was so different in 75 from 72 that caused the collapse of the Saigon government? US airpower alone? Was the South’s fall inevitable? Probably, given the North’s will to attain its final goals, but the South’s collapse was not as instant as some predicted.
    In Afghanistan, Najibullah’s government was expected to collapse instantly after the withdrawal of Soviet forces. Instead, it lasted 4 years and won significant victories against the divided and much reduced mujahideen forces. Many who fought against the occupation went home when the Soviets left. It was only with hundreds of millions more dollars in US aid, Pakistani boots on the ground(special forces and artillery support), internal coup attempts, and allied defections that the Kabul government finally fell. Again, was this fall, and the later descent into civil war, inevitable? I am not so sure that it was, especially had the US and Pakistan ceased aid to the mujahideen in 1988 instead of in 1992.
    In Iraq the resistance is also completely divided and has no common program other than kicking us out. When we leave, will they continue to attack the puppet government left behind? Insurgents can deny ground, but can they take, hold, and govern territory? The fruit of al-Qaida in Iraq’s victory in taking Anbar from US forces was the alienation of the populace from themselves, thus sowing their own end. Maliki and his SIIC allies are natural Iranian friends, the Iranians would be unlikely to exert the kind of effort to unseat such a Baghdad government that Pakistan exerted in 1992. US aid to Iraq would not likely cease, indeed US air support would likely continue. I doubt the Kurds would risk Turkish wrath and so would continue on in a Taiwan-like state of de facto independence with de jure acceptance of the Baghdad government.
    With these ideas in mind, my prediction of a post-occupation Iraq would be a short, medium intensity power struggle amongst the Sunnis and between the Sunnis and the Shia central government followed by some sort of negotiated power-sharing agreement when each side realizes that it cannot win. Many Sunni factions have indicated that they are willing to negotiate now, under the condition of a definitive timetable for US withdrawal. The US can force Baghdad into accepting an agreement with the threat of cutting aid. I do not see genocide or ethnic cleansing beyond what we see every day right now. I don’t see massive outside interference in the absence of chaos.
    Again, I am not wedded to these ideas, I am just putting them out there to stoke further thought on the matter.

  30. Walrus says:

    It is apparent that some here now understand the scale of what a withdrawal would be, but I don’t think some understand the complexity.
    To a simple student of military affairs like me, these are twofold.
    1) The detailed organisation required, for example, POL – (Petrol oil and lubricants as I we would call them} you need fuel at certain locations for your departing vehicles. This means you need a tanker fleet…..and then fuel for the tankers….and then fuel for the tankers bringing fuel to the tankers and so on, and the whole organisation thats doing this task needs to be fed, watered, protected, rested, vehicles repaired and maintained and so on while it is doing its task. Multiply this by all the other tasks – medical, communications, resupply, MP’s, intelligence and so on and so on, and you get an idea of complexity.
    2. Be aware that the tooth to tail ratio these days is maybe ten to one. That means that for every infantryman in the field, there are ten support troops not in the field (Medical, supply, communications, maintenance, catering etc. etc.) These troops in theory are trained soldiers, but may be shall we say a little “rusty” – and then look at the airforce, marines and all the other hangers on, let alone the contractors.
    Now imagine the possibilities for error and calamity trying to carry out an orderly withdrawal of combatants and what are effectively non combatants under continuous enemy attack.
    Thats why the British rightly treated their retreat through Dunkirk in WWII, saving the bulk of their army, if not their equipment, as a miraculous victory.

  31. Walrus says:

    P.S. I forgot to add that if I was planning a withdrawal from Iraq in say three years time, I would begin thinning out what units I could right now.
    I would also place the Crustiest most hard nosed Bastard I could find as an “Immigration” officer in Baghdad and elsewhere, and any soldier who got off a military airplane without an ironclad excuse as to why his presence was essential to victory in Iraq would be getting straight back on and leaving. (PL? Are you available?)
    The British did this at Ascension Island airbase (?) during the Falklands war and turned away many high ranking military rubberneckers who wanted to see what was going on and perhaps get a campaign medal.

  32. Cujo359 says:

    Calculating how long a bunch of containers would be if they were placed end to end doesn’t do it for me, nor does quoting how many tanks, trucks, etc. If you placed the shipping containers a single large container ship carried end to end, they’d stretch for many miles. Wikipedia’s article on container ships says that they can carry 15,000 containers. That’s 113 miles, which I think would get Mnsr. de Borchgrave clear up to Albany. Yet a well-run container port can load and off-load one of those things in a few days. Modern industrial societies with adequate infrastructures move lots of stuff around pretty quickly.
    If those were the only things that mattered, I suspect we would still be hauling Sherman tanks out of Europe.
    A better question is – how much stuff must be removed to Iraq relative to our ability to move it around? How much can reasonably be left behind? How much should be destroyed in place or recycled? As another commenter mentioned, someone should have thought about all these things years ago.
    If you’re going to convince non-military people that this can’t be done in fifteen months, then there’s a lot more explaining left to do.

  33. zanzibar says:

    I lean in the direction of your thesis that there will not automatically be a genocide of a substantially greater magnitude in the event of our withdrawal.
    In fact I believe the Iraqis will rather quickly determine that there will be a never ending insurgency unless there is some kind of political settlement among them. And unlike many in the pundit class here I believe there is enough of a sense of Iraqi identity that they would not all split up. Now the Kurds are another matter.
    I have been convinced for sometime that an orderly exit from Iraq is in our national interest. However, such an exit should be as part of a “concert” in PL terms. Since everyone in the ME is now aware that we can insure destruction at an immense scale I believe they are also ready for a settlement on the basis of non-interference i.e. we don’t interfere in their affairs and they would insure that jihadists don’t have sanctuary in their territories and would in fact collaborate with us to terminate the most incorrigible.
    That would also mean that we can’t be the lapdog for the Likudniks. This is where I believe every thing falls apart since we can’t ever in current circumstance cross them.
    Bottom line IMO is until we can sever our interests from Likudnik interests we will continue to pay the price. That’s why I think its most important to cultivate the realists in Israel and support countervailing forces to neutralize the Likudnik stranglehold on American politics. There is a confluence of interests that can bring stability if we can get a divorce from the radical revolutionaries led by the Likudniks. Its clearly time to end the neocon experiment and to gather up the forces of realism and understanding that recognize “globalization” does not mean every one is a clone of us and its high time we accept cultural diversity and that our purpose in life is not to be a hegemonic policeman in this world – the time’s past for that. We need the time and attention to focus on our own affairs – how not to become a certified banana republic by dealing with our unsustainable debt growth and our massive unfunded financial liabilities, regaining our economic competitive edge, making the dollar be worth something and becoming a beacon of hope for peoples in the world through our living example and deeds.

  34. Adrian says:

    Who cares if we leave behind 10,000 trucks? Perhaps GM won’t have to fire all its workers. How many soldiers are 10,000 easily-replaceable trucks worth?
    We’d have to take the tanks, all the heavy weapons, etc. How long did it take us to get our equipment into Iraq, and why should it take any longer to get it out (“invasion in reverse”)?

  35. Kunu-ri says:

    Considering the withdrawal through Kurdish areas in the north, to the Turkish border and eventually ports of Ceyhan, Mersin and Iskenderun seems the shortest route upon a quick gaze on the map. A continious withdrawal route may be opened and maintained with relative ease, with the added help of Peshmerge and friendly Kurdish population. Same can not be said for the Anbar desert to Jordan, or the Shiite areas through Basra to Kuveyt. The problem is with the Turkish border, US needs to start laying out the political groundwork for this alternative now, the Turkish public is extremely sceptical of the US policies regarding the PKK problem, dissaproval of US is topping the charts at around 90 percents. A little movement in this regard would go a longways to regain Turkish trust and cooperation for a future emergency. And as a small quid pro quo, Turkish Army would not turn down humvies and other equipment too old to take back to US. The equpment US transferred to Turkey after WWII helped tremendously to stabilize the region for decades and became the core for the modern Turkish Army. It is therefore relatively easy to regain Turkey as a loyal and natural ally, both politically and strategically with trmendous benefit to US and eventually Israel, as a counter weight to the growing influence of Shia in general and Iran and islamic fundementalism in particular. It looks pretty bleak for now, but not impossible with a little bit of diplomatic skill and foresight, both of which, unfortunately I currently gave up hope from this administration.

  36. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    <"can not afford to depart militarily in other than an organized, rational, carefully planned way">
    Yes, and IMO this process requires a robust and effective US diplomatic initiative with all the neighboring countries, Iran and Syria in particular. This would presuppose we (and the Israelis) don’t attack Iran (and Syria) thereby complicating our exit to put it mildly.

  37. Binh says:

    I’m no pacifist but this begs the question: how many more lives will be sacraficed, not for pride, honor, or a President’s ego, but for (replaceable) equipment?
    I wouldn’t want my cousin in the National Guard to stay in Iraq and run the risk of being blown up just to make sure his flatbed truck got back to Kuwait.

  38. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “How long did it take us to get our equipment into Iraq, and why should it take any longer to get it out (“invasion in reverse”)?”
    The level of ignorance embedded in this sentence is enlightening. Yes. It took three weeks to capture Baghdad. Do you really think that withdrawal of the force is an analogous situation?
    Kunu-Ri et al
    Yes, preparation CAN be made to use Turkey and Jordan as additional withdrawal routes, IF political arrangrements are made, and IF logistical facilities are created in those countries.
    That is what you are supposed to be learning here rather than blathering in the easy college BS way about your grand strategic thoughts.
    Try to think as though you actually had to do these things instead of just talking about them. p

  39. Will says:

    Some Meopotamian historical context.
    Notwithstanding Crassus’ ignominious defeat at Carrahae, the Romans persisted and adapted against the Persicos. They mastered a defense against the combined Persico arms. Archers would bunch up the Romans into the tortoise formation (testudo) and then the heavy cavalry (armored horse and rider) would bust up the tortoise with their lances exposing the Romans to the archers indirect fire.
    Trajan (Traian) ultimately annexed Mesopotamia but his successor and fellow pederast, Hadrian, promptly abandoned it.
    The Roman-Persian wars would continue thruough the Byzantine successors until the Muslim Arabs ultimately dealt both powers severe blows. The erstwhile Byzantine Turkish allies eventually became Muslims and their nemesis.
    Little known is that the Byzantines sicced the Turks on their fellow Christians in the Georgian Caucus kingdoms of Iberia and Albania which by necessity had become allied with the Persicos.

  40. CSTAR says:

    The personal reference to the owner of this blog in my comment above was wrong. Moreover, it was of no help to this discussion. For that I apologize.
    The personally contentious style also obscured the two points I tried to make. But since apologies be short and simple, with minimal qualification, I will leave that to another time.
    As to the repeated applications of the post key, I will try to be more careful in the future.

  41. frank durkee says:

    Col. What are the criteria for deciding where the early and later coordinated movements begin and progress? How do you ensure that you have sufficient rapid deployment forces to react to untoward situations in the areas you’ve left? How do you ‘thin out’ i.e. Again what are the criteria?
    Perhaps the simp;est close in analogy for we non-military types is emptying a house when moving so that you can have sleep and breakfast on the day of the moveandhavesupperandsleepwhenyouget to the new abode. withdrawal from Iraq is several magnitudes more complicated.

  42. Yohan says:

    The Turkish state railway runs near the Iraq border, I’m sure the US could lease rail assets from the Turks and this would make movement much easier. There wouldn’t be the need to reinvent the wheel in terms of fuel distribution for trucks(like would be necessary in southern Iraq and Jordan) because the train system already has its own infrastructure in place. Once on a train, getting even the heaviest of heavy weapons to port is relatively easy. Material could be staged near the railhead with only minimal worry of attack, something that is not the case in Arab lands.
    The Turkish people are angry about Americans being in Iraq. If you ask them for help in getting Americans out of Iraq, they should be only too thrilled to assist, given the proper payments and incentives. I don’t see a NATO ally and EU aspirant not going along with such an American plan.
    Much of the things we have brought to Iraq don’t need to be taken back. As has been said before, many of the trucks and Hum-Vees are in bad shape to begin with and can be given/sold to the Iraqi government, destroyed, or dismembered for parts. A study to figure out what needs to be brought back and what can stay/be destroyed needs to start yesterday, if not sooner.
    These things will take effort and planning, but they are completely doable. The problem is not a lack of logistical ability, the problem is a lack of political will. Politicians who promise to have everyone out in 6 months are irresponsible, but far FAR less irresponsible than those politicians who now have the power to get the ball rolling but refuse to do so.

  43. Miles Becker says:

    I wonder how an attack on Iran might affect the issues discussed here. Withdrawl to Kuwait implies free passage of the Gulf, does it not?
    If the Iranians have turned their Persian Gulf coast into a maritime ‘Tabouleh Line,’ then that would not be the case, it seems to me.
    And if the Iranians were instrumental in aiding Hezbullah in Lebanon so effectively establish their defenses in six years, would it not be prudent to assume that the Iranians have been spent the last ninteen years doing the same for themselves?

  44. DH says:

    For whom the Colonel loveth, he chasteneth.

  45. jedermann says:

    The debate over the war in Iraq is, at present, about a decision to leave or stay. The time frame for either choice is a secondary consideration in the minds of most people. Once the question of leaving or staying is decided there will, of course, be much disappointment and anger over the realities that accompany either choice. Nevertheless, this being a democracy, it is important that people have available to them the most accurate estimates possible of the time it will take to get out on the one hand and the likely duration and size of an active military involvement with a decision to stay on the other. That said, I doubt that the publication of such estimates will have much effect on the decision making process (read sausage grinding). Anyone trying to be real about either option is going to take heavy fire politically as the realities are pretty unappetizing at best. No one who wants to get out wants to hear that it will take years to do it. Those who want to stay probably do not want to air the likely true costs of doing so.
    One would hope that serious contingency planning has been done for both options by the military. The history of this administration does not give one much confidence that the political commissars in the Pentagon have not suppressed such planning. The idea of withdrawal may well be so beyond the pale as to make planning for the politically unpleasant an act of extraordinary heroism.

  46. Adrian says:

    Here’s where the “invasion in reverse” idea comes from:
    Both those sources argue that it could be possible to effect a DISorderly withdrawal in about three months. Whether it’s the best option is of course debatable, but I don’t think that Congress should be presented with “the only possible way to withdraw is to take 3 years and do it orderly and take all our ice-cream machines with us.” The President and Congress are the ones who should make the decision of how quickly to withdraw, and they can’t necessarily make the best decision if they are only presented with one option.
    And – of course I am ignorant of the logistics involved in moving 150,000 troops – that’s why I ask the questions and other people answer them (or tell me I’m ignorant)! 🙂

  47. DaveGood says:

    Most people posting here do so using an underlying assumption the America can get to choose the time and the length of it’s withdrawal from Iraq.
    I still remember General Shineski…. he said flatly before this war started that an army in the hundreds of thousands would be needed for ten to fifteen years to pacify Iraq and was fired\pushed out for saying it.
    For those who think leaving behind 10 to 20 thousand troops is a feasible option…. Why would that work when 160 thousand isn’t enough?
    For those who think that an “Invasion in reverse” ( One headlong rush for the
    borders) would do the trick…
    well all you’ll get out is whatever vehicles survive the journey ( And of course, unlike the invasion on the way in, when everything was more or less brand spanking new and maintained to the highest condition, a hell of lot in Iraq now is frankly worn out)…and the men on them.
    Plus of course it highly possible that countries you will be fleeing too such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia will collapse from within at the sight of the one major ally garunteeing the survival of the ruling elites there is seen to be fleeing.
    Then there is the fact that with America ( Thanks to Reagan\Bush1 and Bush 2 fiscal policies) to the tune of trillions and trillions of dollars…. You cannot afford to repair and refurbish what you have at the moment… never mind replace what you’ll lose… It’s Ironic that official cost of the Iraq so far has been entirely funded by loans from the Chinese Government.
    And you will be leaving behind hundreds of billions in treasure in the form of facilities and material…. the US embassy is 500 million alone.
    All choices facing America and the English speaking west right now are bad ones.
    And the best options are not on the table and never will be given the current mindset of the Democratic and Republican Parties.
    The very best we can hope for is that Bush doesn’t decided to start a third war while losing the other two.

  48. Matthew says:

    Col: Your words define talking head-dom: “That is what you are supposed to be learning here rather than blathering in the easy college BS way about your grand strategic thoughts.”

  49. Miles Becker says:

    I am not sure I understand the underlying assumptions of the staying in Iraq for x years scenarios.
    The situation is not static, it is deteriorating rapidly in many important ways, and the effects are beginning to be seen in very serious problems in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iran now. Five million refugees say some, and people continuing to leave their homes in large numbers. Cholera is now suspected in refugee camps outside Iraq, not to mention half of Iraq itself. No clean water, no sewage treatment, no electricity, no health care, traumatized children, poverty and humiliation. In a society that once was relatively prosperous, secular and highly educated.
    How precisely can we imagine this continuing indefinitely? Or for x years?
    At what point will previously resigned Iraqis, not to mention Syrians or Turks, decide that they can take no more, and what will that mean for us?

  50. graeme says:

    I guess your prediction in this post was correct

  51. Kieran says:

    A slow, orderly withdrawal is essential. America cannot sacrifice any more credibility than it already has done. Too much (world order) depends on that credibility. Failure is one thing, a defeat is another. But is withdrawal so certain? Whatever transpires with Iran might bog us down for some time to come.

  52. slipkid says:

    1 – US forces withdrew from… ‘During that period of time the US evacusted what equipment it wished to turned over the rest to the SVN forces complete with factory maintenance services for it’.
    Please explain this sentence!
    If you intended to use of the term “evacuated”, please explain, how the “US evacuated what equipment it wished to turned over the rest to the SVN forces complete with factory maintenance services for it”, with reference as to where this equipment was to be evacuated to.
    “That is what you are supposed to be learning here rather than blathering in the easy college BS way about your grand strategic thought.”
    Leaving the “junk” behind is exactly what will happen!
    We just gave our allies in the MidEast how many billions, and leave Iraq; who’s ever in charge; with an inferior army?
    How can the MIC not be pleased?!!

  53. eaken says:

    Rail traffic in eastern Turkey is very heavy. In fact, securing a rail car to/from Jolfa in NE Iran in itself is a bit of a challenge and must be done weeks in advance. Not saying it’s impossible, but just something to think about.

  54. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The sentence should have read:
    “AND turned what equipment it wished to over” etc.
    Equipment evacuated from VN left mostly by ship over the three years of the withdrawal and went to the US or Okinawa where there was a major US base.
    “We just gave our allies in the MidEast how many billions, and leave Iraq; who’s ever in charge; with an inferior army?
    How can the MIC not be pleased?!!” Leftist cant. pl

  55. Will says:

    “blathering in the easy college BS way about your grand strategic thoughts.”
    can’t blame college. I picked it up all on my own. recently in the news, that weight gain is promoted by a virus. I had told that to a judge at one time. Somewhat of a wit, he replied “Yes, and you catch that virus at McDonald’s, Burger King..”
    I caught the virus for the penchant for grand strategic prose, parallel comparisons of modernity w/ ancient history by reading Gibbons & Toynbee all on my own- not even required reading in any course.
    (Disclosure- I have a B.S. in Physics and almost another in Chemistry and a Juris Doctor. (Contrary to the practice of “Dr.” Pat Robertson, i don’t play up the JD. they told us not to call ourselves doctors in Law School as it confuses the public) And lots of courses in Infantry courtesy of Uncle Sam prior to my tropical southeast Asia vacation at age 19)

  56. W. Patrick Lang says:

    CSTAR started me looking at things I had not inspected for a while. The DU is now thoght to be a lot more toxic than it had been. The qustion ought to be “how many rounds of DU have been fired in Iraq,” rather than is it in the armor.
    I don’t think you mean that we should have done this without tanks or aircraft. As for the D-Day remark, the issue here is not the ability to plan. No. the issue is how difficult will the withdrawal be, and how long will it take.
    Whoever posed the question of re-build as opposed to buy new, I don’t think the Army is going to buy some of this heavy equipmwnt again. the Rumsfeld “revolution” has led them to want to buy much lighter stuff. I’m not sure I am altogether happy with that. pl

  57. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Speaking of the Rumsfeld Revolution, I’ll add this little tidbit for my fellow commentors:
    Future Combat Systems
    Lots of money. Lots of contractors. More complexity. Many years out.

  58. EJ says:

    The article doesn’t address “Iraq-exit logistics”. Who cares how long it takes to inspect and ship equipment home once it’s in Kuwait? That has nothing to do with getting out of Iraq. If it’s in Kuwait, it has by definition “exited Iraq.” If we have to maintain a small force in Kuwait for a period of time to make sure that everything is properly packaged for the voyage home, we will have by then exited Iraq.
    Further, is the military seriously contemplating shipping ice cream machines back from Iraq? Good grief, leave them there. Only the government would actually think the economics of shipping a used ice-cream machine halfway around the world make sense.
    Even the math in the first paragraph is faulty – 31 thousand vehicles at 30 miles per hour, bumper to bumper, if we overestimate the length of each vehicle at 200 feet, will go by in about 1.6 days, not 75. Heck, Give them a reasonable following distance and assume 1000 feet per vehicle, and it’s about 8.1 days. There sure must be a lot of “other” vehicles.
    It’s a trivial point and I’m not implying we can get out of Iraq in a week – but it’s not a good start if we’re to believe the numbers in the rest of the article.

  59. CatsMeow says:

    How long did it take us to get out of Vietnam?

  60. W. Patrick Lang says:

    By my calcualtion (I was there) abut four years. Thi was from the Spring of 1969 until the Spring of 1973. Then there was a period of about two years of quiet before the North Vietnamese over ran the country in 1975. pl

  61. longtex says:

    I was waiting for someone to remark on the innumeracy of this post, but – as far as I can tell – no one has done it… yet. SO, I’ll jump in.
    I’m not sure what sort of constraints de Borchgrave is considering on the vehicles… I don’t know if he’s serious about his numbers, or just assuming that most of his readers are too ignorant to realize that if he’s correct, the daily traffic jam of hundreds of thousands of vehicles on big city freeways, traveling considerably less than 30 mph much of the time, will take YEARS to drive to and from the downtown areas…
    Whatta ya think? Ten cents each, two for a quarter, okay?
    How about this: Let’s stand at a given point and watch vehicles drive by, at 30 mph. A fairly simple assumption of, let’s say, 100-foot intervals gives us 1,584 vehicles per hour passing by us, and the entire 31,000 vehicle fleet passes in 19.57 hours, right? Oh, you wanna see it? 30 mph times 5,280 feet per mile is 158,400 feet per hour, divided by 100 feet per vehicle is 1,584 vehicles per hour past our given point. Then 31,000 vehicles divided by 1,584 vehicles per hour is 19.57 hours total. That’s a far cry from 75 days…
    What about the “New Your to Denver” lineup?
    A quick google tells you it’s 2,011 miles from NYC to Denver. At 100 feet per vehicle, that’s over 100,000 of those 100-foot vehicle-lengths. Hmmm… that’s only a little over three hundred percent exaggeration (well, really more like eight hundred percent, because he DID specify “bumper-to-bumper” and I’m pretty damn sure those 20,000 humvees aren’t more than 20 feet long, and the trucks aren’t more than 75 feet, and even if we give the tanks the full hundred, the bumper-to-bumper length is about 1,250,000 feet, which is only about 235 miles…). But, what the hell, “New York to Denver” sounds a hell of a lot better than “New York to Boston”, doesn’t it?
    The containers reaching from NYC to West Point, doesn’t sound so bad… as long as there’s not too many containers. I have personally driven that path, and I can guarantee you it isn’t much over 60 miles… shipping containers come in 20 feet and 40 feet lengths, so there’s a lot of wiggle room there. The 40-foot containers would line up to a little under 8,000 of them to reach the distance, so there’s about 2,000 trucks left to carry non-containerized stuff. It’s a good thing they won’t take 75 days to make the trip, huh?

  62. W. Patrick Lang says:

    There is usually a junior person in the operatons section who computes the movement schedule. I am willing to recommend you for the job.
    That is one part of figuring our how long the withdrawal will take. pl

  63. Ed G says:

    Missed the trackback URL. Trying to find data (historical) from previous wars that should assist any planners in developing a redeployment / demobilization from Iraq. My internet searches have proved to be limited in content.
    V/R MAJ G

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