Rumors of a short-term draw-down in Iraq are once again popping up:
The United States hopes to sharply reduce its forces in Iraq within the next year, its top commander on the ground said on Wednesday.
“I do believe that if the political process continues to go positively, if the developments with the (Iraqi) security forces continue to go as it is going, I do believe we will still be able to make fairly substantial reductions after these elections — in the spring and summer of next year,” General George Casey said at a briefing with visiting Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Iraq is scheduled to hold two elections in the coming months: a referendum on a new constitution in October and an election for a new leader in December.
Casey made a similar prediction of troop cuts early this year, but U.S. officials have avoided repeating predictions that give a timetable for withdrawals since the insurgency in Iraq worsened sharply when the new government took power in April.
This annoncement appears to have coincided with statements from a top Iraqi PM:
Iraq’s transitional prime minister called Wednesday for a speedy withdrawal of U.S. troops and the top U.S. commander here said he believed a “fairly substantial” pullout could begin next spring and summer.
Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said at a joint news conference with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the time has arrived to plan a coordinated transition from American to Iraqi military control throughout the country.
Asked how soon a U.S. withdrawal should happen, he said no exact timetable had been set. “But we confirm and we desire speed in that regard,” he said, speaking through a translator. “And this fast pace has two aspects.”
I don’t think it is unwarranted to wonder if the announcement has anything to do with new domestic poll numbers concerning the war, and it most certainly is not unwarranted to remember that al-Jaafari has been doing some jet-setting in the region, inking deals with Iran and Syria.
In other military news, plans to permanently relocate 50,000 soldiers have been finalized:
The Army has completed plans for bringing home 50,000 soldiers living overseas, mostly in Germany and South Korea, and settling them in bases across the United States where families will move less often and troops will be closer to training centers and ports, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.
Several states with large bases – Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina and Texas – will have their Army populations grow, with the addition of at least one brigade, or about 5,000 soldiers, and their families.
The complex plans, which describe in detail where the troops will move, where new Army brigades will be located and which units will be renamed, have been approved by President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Pentagon officials said.
The relocation, to be completed by 2008, was described by two Pentagon officials who have worked on the project and were granted anonymity so they would describe the changes before an official announcement expected later this week.
In one of the most significant shifts of troops since the end of the cold war, the restationing program finds new homes for not only the 50,000 troops returning from abroad, but also for 30,000 new soldiers financed temporarily by Congress. Those increases are to help the Army add 10 brigades to its current 33 under a program to convert all of its combat units into more deployable modular units.
If I remember correctly, this proposal, when first floated, was met with widespread oppostion from the usual quarters. Seems to me that it is not only doable, but it makes sense and will shortly be a done deal.