Thursday, June 26, 2008

Troop Levels After The Surge

Source: New York Times
By July 2008 the surge will have ended. At its peak, there were 162,000 troops in Iraq in August 2007 after 30,000 additional ones in five brigades were sent in. Beginning in November 2007 the first unit began returning home. When the surge is over there will still be 142,000 American troops in Iraq. That’s 7,000 more than before. This is not the end of the influx of U.S. soldiers and Marines however. An additional 39,000 will be sent in October 2008. They will serve a twelve-month tour and leave in 2009. Troop levels have been a hotly contested issue within the military.
Since mid-2007 the top American commanders have debated how many soldiers and Marines to keep in Iraq after the surge. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, and former CENTCOM commander Admiral William Fallon argued that joint deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan were straining the military, and that after the surge only 100,000 soldiers should be left in Iraq. General David Petraeus, commander in Iraq and soon to be CENTCOM commander, and his second in command General Ray Odierno, soon to become overall commander in Iraq, wanted to keep as many soldiers in Iraq as possible to maintain the security gains. President Bush threw his support behind his Iraqi commanders, and overrode the concerns of those at the Pentagon.

Large numbers of American troops in Iraq until at least the end of the Bush administration might not be a bad thing. In October 2008 Iraq is planning on carrying out provincial elections. Various groups may try to disrupt them, and the U.S. can help secure voting places. Another reason why the U.S. presence is needed is that the Sunni Sons of Iraq that are attributed for improving security have cut deals with the Americans, not the Iraqi government. Soldiers and Marines are needed to monitor these groups. Third, despite Iraqi offensives in Basra, Sadr City, Mosul and Maysan province, the Iraqi security forces are not capable of standing alone for a few more years without U.S. support. What happens with U.S. troop levels in the long term will be up to whoever becomes president of the United States on January 2009.

SOURCES:

Baldor, Lolita, “Army too stretched if Iraq buildup lasts,” Associated Press, 8/19/07
- “The U.S. And Iraq,” Associated Presss, 6/24/08

Baker, Peter, DeYoung, Karen, Ricks, Thomas, Tyson, Ann Scott, Warrick, Joby, and Wright, Robin, “Among Top Officials, ‘Surge’ Has Sparked Dissent, Infighting,” Washington Post, 9/9/07

Barnes, Julian, and Spiegel, Peter, “Top general to urge Iraq troop cut,” Los Angeles Times, 8/24/07

Burns, Robert, “What happens after ‘surge’ over is key,” Associated Press, 9/7/07

Oppel, Richard and Myers, Steven Lee, “Iraq Eases Curb for Former Officials of Hussein’s Party,” New York Times, 1/13/08

Reno, Jamie, “Troop Cuts: Which Unit Leaves First?” Newsweek, 9/14/07

Roberts, Kristin, “New Iraq deployments could maintain U.S. force level,” Reuters, 5/19/08

Spiegel, Peter and Barnes, Julian, “Top U.S. military brass in Iraq resist quick drawdown,” Los Angles Times, 12/6/07

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