Troops will stay in Iraq for years

The US military will be tied down in Iraq with 100,000 troops at least through the presidency of George W. Bush, and a modest size residual force will be there for years to come.

And that is a best-case scenario, as articulated by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday after Bush announced plans for more modest troop cuts by mid-July.

“One of the sad aspects of war is there is no script,” Gates told reporters. “That history hasn’t been written yet. And the enemy has a vote.”

“I can tell you what my hope is. My hope is that the situation continues to develop, as it has, for the last several months, as we anticipate it will for the next several months, though the end of the year.”

If it does, he said, US force levels would go down to about 100,000 troops, or from 20 combat brigades to 10, by the time a new president takes office in January 2009.

Bush and Gates sketched out hopes for a shrinking US military presence in Iraq as conditions improve, but no end point to a mission that has lasted four and a half years, claimed the lives of 3,773 US troops, and cost nearly half a trillion dollars.

Gates said it was crucial to reassure allies in the region and “signal potential adversaries that we are not leaving Iraq to their ambitions, and that we will remain the dominant force in the region.”

Richard Haas, a former senior State Department official, in comments published this week by the Council on Foreign Relations said he could imagine “an American presence of say 75,000 troops for years, if the costs were not high.”

“Again, I think the bottom line is that the administration has probably bought itself sixteen more months of something that looks a lot like the status quo.”

In testimony and media interviews over the past week, Petraeus has refused to discuss his plans beyond the modest cuts that Bush announced.

But he has said conditions are stable enough in some areas that US troops can be pulled out, while keeping US combat forces in contested areas such as Baghdad and Diyala province.

A color-coded chart prepared for Petraeus’s congressional hearings shows more than 10 US combat brigades currently leading operations, and another five brigades partnered with Iraqi forces.

By July, the numbers of US brigades in the lead or partnered with Iraqi forces fall to just over 10, as the mission of US forces begins to shifts to tactical, operational and ultimately, strategic oversight.

Petraeus said he intends further reductions of US troops but that the pace will depend on conditions on the ground.

A key unknown is whether security will hold after US troops leave.

A commission led by former marine corps commandant Jim Jones warned last week that the Iraqi military will not be ready to take over security for 12 to 18 months. The national police are so corrupt and sectarian they should be disbanded, the commission said.

Petraeus’s answer is to “thicken” local defenses with neighborhood militias and “volunteers,” creating a patchwork of stability, while national Iraqi forces are being strengthened.

The assassination Thursday of a leading sheikh in Al-Anbar province, a model for the new approach, underscored its fragility.

And in overwhelmingly Shiite southern Iraq, a violent struggle for power between rival factions has grown in intensity as British troops have pulled back.

Petraeus and his commanders also are seeing a big push by Iran to arm and train proxies among the Shiite factions, a significant development that analysts say adds a new level of risk to the situation.

“I think they want to keep the United States tied down in Iraq — and painfully tied down — for as long as possible on the assumption that that will reduce the risk of a … US air strike against their nuclear facilities,” said Toby Dodge, an expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and a former Petraeus adviser.

“Now the great irony about this is that Iranian policy in Iraq may be bringing forward, or making much more likely what it is designed to stop, which is a US attack on Tehran,” he said.

Petraeus demurred this week when asked whether he should be given the authority to attack Iranian operatives inside Iran, saying it was outside his area of responsibility.


  1. keith

    I respectfully beg to differ with the good Secretary Gates.

    There IS a script to this war. And, it is quite apparent that he has already read it because both he and Mr. Bush are now following it to the letter.

    It’s all spelled out in black and white in a document written back in 2000 by William Kristol and his neoconservative buddies called “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century” at:

    In that document, Kristol makes numerous references to the US being engaged in endless “total wars” and “wars of pre-emption”, all of which turn our once peace-loving nation into an imperial world power.

    The document is a bit long, but it’s well worth the read. And once you are finished, you’ll learn EXACTLY what the trumped up “war on terror” is all about and why the US military will be tied up in places like Iraq and Afghanistan for decades.

  2. SEAL

    Gates said it was crucial to reassure allies in the region and “signal potential adversaries that we are not leaving Iraq to their ambitions, and that we will remain the dominant force in the region.”

    There it is. They finally stated [admitted] what those of us more intelligent than a dodo bird have known from the beginning. The United States military is in Iraq forever and a day.

    This administration never lets cats out of the bag without a reason. My guess is that this admission is designed to (a) make it easier for the repugnants in congress to support “stay the course” and (b) help the republican candidates in the upcoming elections.

    First he sends in Petraeus to perpetrate the myth that we are winning [you can’t call a respected general a liar like you can a politition] and then has Gates [the “honest” SOD that replaced that liar, Rumsfeld] bait us with his “feelings” of even more troop reductions. Second he has Gates let everyone know they might as well get used to the idea of supporting the presidents war because he has trapped us and it will never end. It cannot, should not end. It is the right thing to do.

    Focus on the big picture, the end game, and this vote becomes less significant. And, what the hell difference does it make which party the candidate belongs to if the war is going to last forever. Everyone HAS to “support the troops” and haven’t the republicans done a great job of that all along? Let’s not trust the fate of our soldiers to no wishy washy democrat who might let them run out of bullets.

    The only thing left is for them to admit is the real reason for the war – OIL – but that will never happen. Admitting that would turn the invasion into a crime.

    Something interesting happened yesterday. The Ayatolla(sp?) of Iran kicked off the ramadan religious celebration with a speach wherein he said that Bush and his close confidants would someday be tried in international court for the crimes they have pertetrated against Iraq. He also said he could not understand how the american people allowed this to happen. At least he knows who to blame.

  3. acf

    “There it is. They finally stated [admitted] what those of us more intelligent than a dodo bird have known from the beginning. The United States military is in Iraq forever and a day.”

    Now, tell me again about the mission in Iraq, and standards for success. Regardless of the gnashing of teeth about sectarian violence and the insurgency, the fact is that, even in this state, the conquest and occupation is a success in the eyes of Bush and his neocon patrons, with the emphasis on the occupation and destabilization of the whole Middle East. As always, watch what they do, not what they say. Verbal communication is primarily used for misdirection.

  4. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    The one comment that General Betrayer made that stuck out to me the most regarding security for Iraqi neighborhoods was his mention of ‘thickening’ them with local militias and ‘volunteers’.

    Lawless, roving militias is one of the most problematic maladies in Iraq, fomenting internacine violence, and the use of ‘volunteers’ which I take to mean Blackwater security thugs who do whatever the hell they want, brutalizing Iraqi citizens, does nothing to help the situation while American taxpayers are keeping these thugs in the money.

    And of course, now the brave Jack-Ass Democrats will
    Hee Haw a couple of times in preperation for their
    rant against Bush in the upcoming 150 billion Bush will want so……let the Non-Binding Jack-Ass Protest Dance begin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The Angry Indignant Jack-Assess Will Dance and sing about How Hard they will fight against the President!

    Hairy Reed in his Churchillian voice will say,”We Will Never Give up -Never”…

    Nancette Pelosi will say in her brave Minnie Mouse voice,”No more Blank Checks for Bush”…

    The Dance will go for perhaps a month, but probably much less then that…

    At that point, Nancette & Hairy will say,”We’ll, America, we fought bravely against the Republicans, but they won’t budge, we don’t have enough votes to overide Bush”…

    With Sad, Long, Jack Ass Faces, Hairy & Nancette will reluctantly say,”Well, America, we have no choice , we have to take your hard earned tax dollars and stuff
    150 Billion of your dollars down a Foie gras tube in
    Georgie Boy’s mouth, he made us do it”…

    After Bush gets his money, Hairy Reed will get a little bit of a second wind and muster up in his best Churchillian voice,”We’ll never give up -never”…

  5. SEAL

    acf asks: “Now, tell me again about the mission in Iraq, and standards for success.”

    They stopped talking about why we are there long ago. It makes no difference any more. The whole point, which they have finally stated, is that we have placed ourselves in the position of not being able to leave. That, of course, is why we invaded and why the occupation has been so mishandled but they would never admit that.

    They have never even hinted at what the “standards for success” would be. The can’t because they have achieved their standards – Create the conditions that will prevent us from leaving. What they are working up to is that success will be our staying in Iraq to protect them – just like Korea and what they had wanted to do with Vietnam.

    But they could not do it with Nam because our military’s mentality is war. They do not know how to deal with an insugency. They are finally learning in Iraq. You must have the “good” guys of the country take the lead and support them with the necessary firepower to defeat the bad guys. It is the people of the country who have to feel that they are in control of what happens to their country. And the fact is, that most Iraqis are the good guys. We have pushed them aside and proceeded to do it for them. Now we are beginning to lay it on them to do. That will work if we do it right.

  6. keith

    Actually, Seal….

    The reason (as you say) “they couldn’t do it with Nam” was because the Communists overran South Vietnam and therefore made it impossible for the US military (or any other US interest) to stay in the country any longer.

    Or, to put it another way, the so-called “Vietnamization” of the war (remember that word?) didn’t work (or didn’t work fast enough) to overcome the Communist insurgency.

    I know. My Dad was all set to spend an unprecedented, extended third tour in South Vietnam helping to “Vietnam-ize” things (he was a US civil servant and was serving there by choice) until “they” told him he had to leave. So, he packed his bags and came home LONG before he was ready to.

    Had the Communists not overrun the country, he might have still been over there.

  7. SEAL

    Keith: the mistakes were made in Nam in the beginning by doing the same thing they did in Iraq. We waged war against the Cong instead of supporting the south viets to combat them. Consequently, the north viets sent their troops to support the cong and do battle with us and that changed the whole dynamic. By the time we got around to the vietnamization theory it was way too late. It wasn’t an insurgency at that point. It was a war of north against south.

    Fortunately, in Iraq we have no other foe to send troops to support the insurgency we have been waging war against. So, it remains an insurgency. That can been put down if handled right. But it will take time. At least a couple of years. Esentially, that is what Petraeus is saying. The problem is, he and Bush are saying it is necessary to protect america and fight the war on terror and that is all bullshit. The only legitimate reason for us staying the course is not to fail and perserve our image as the great military power.

    However, the major flaw in their thinking is that we should remain there forever. They believe that would give us a great advantage of power and influence in the Middle East. But all it will do is serve as an irritant to the entire muslim world and foster terrorism against us. Our presence and interference in their world is what created the terrorism that culminated in 9/11.

    What we need to do is figure out a way to get the hell out of the middle east and leave those people alone.

  8. keith

    Seal, we are in “violent agreement”!

    Macnamara was an absolute incompetent. He knew how to run Ford Motor Company, but knew absolutely nothing about how to run a war. He should have been brought up on criminal charges, but he wasn’t.

    And what the current crop of clowns running our government ALSO don’t seem to realize is that by “staying the course” they are simply reinforcing their own arrogant incompetence as well.

  9. Klaus Hergeschimmer

    Hey Seal, I’m getting off subject, but I just wondered, have you ever seen the Vietnam documentary
    called,’The Ten Thousand Day War’? If you didn’t it was done very much in the style of the World At War Documentary series. It had several inteviews with the North Vietnamese general, General Giap, and interviews with numerous other officals on both sides of the conflict. The series starts its focus just after the end of WW-II, when the Japanese left Vietnam and the French re-occupied it.

    One thing that was astonishing to me was the tenacity of General Giap’s forces at the siege of Bein Dein Phu, how they lashed heavy artillery pieces with ropes and teams of men hauled them over tall mountain passes to position them around the French strong point.

    Khe Sahn was like an American version of Bein Dein Phu, Apparently Westmoreland thought that was the case, except of course, that through massive air re-supply and aerial bombardment the Marines prevailed.

    This series was produced in 1980.

  10. SEAL

    Yes, Klaus, I have seen it. It was very good. However, like all of those things, not entirely acurate. Better than most, though. There is much about the Vietnam war that will never be revealed. More about Iraq.