Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Gen. Petraeus may propose troop pullbacks

In his Sept. 15th report to Congress General David Petraeus may recommend pulling troops out of some areas of Iraq where it is believed the Iraqi Security Force will be able to handle the load alone.

From Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. commander in Iraq will recommend pulling U.S. troops out of some areas where commanders believe security has improved, the Los Angeles Times said on Wednesday, citing Bush administration officials.

Gen. David Petraeus's assessment of the situation in Iraq, to be issued in September, is regarded as pivotal amid pressure for President George W. Bush to change course in the conflict.

The newspaper on its Web site said that instead of reducing the overall number of U.S. troops in Iraq, Petraeus could call for them to be moved to other areas or for the creation of a reserve force in case of an increase in violence.

I wasn't going to use the LA Times article that served as the basis for this report because it is just so biased, but I couldn't resist:

Intent on demonstrating progress in Iraq, the top U.S. general there is expected by Bush administration officials to recommend removing American troops soon from several areas where commanders believe security has improved, possibly including Al Anbar province.


Another Defense official, who has been part of Iraq planning but skeptical of the troop increase, said moving forces out of Al Anbar could make sense to the White House, because doing so would enable the administration to show that improved security translates into a reduction in troops.


The Defense official skeptical of the troop buildup said he expected Petraeus to emphasize military accomplishments, including improving security in Baghdad neighborhoods and a slight reduction in the number of suicide bomb attacks. But the official said he did not believe such security improvements would translate into political progress or improvements in the daily lives of most Iraqis.

"Who cares how many neighborhoods of Baghdad are secured?" the official said. "Let's talk about the rest of the country: How come they have electricity twice a day, how come there is no running water?"

In other words it doesn't matter whether the troop surge is actually making progress, what's important is cooking the books so it seems like it is making progress.

Giving the devil his due though the Times article does make a valid point about pulling out of an area too soon. We have made that mistake multiple times and I hope we will have learned our lesson this time:

Not all military commanders favor reducing the number of troops in more stable areas. In a news conference last month, Marine Maj. Gen. Walter E. Gaskin, the commander of U.S. forces in Al Anbar, cautioned against cutting back forces there too quickly.

Gaskin argued that the added forces had allowed the Marines to eliminate havens used by the insurgent group that calls itself Al Qaeda in Iraq.

A "persistent presence" of U.S. forces, he said, would help give Iraqi security forces more experience and confidence, and the ability to keep militants out.

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