Sunday, March 26, 2006

Down But Not Out

Secretary Rice said we might draw down of troops in Iraq by the end of the year. It could be fewer than 100,000:

There are now about 133,000 American troops in Iraq. Military officials have expressed hope they can reduce the number below 100,000 by year's end.

Considering that a brigade has 3,500 and that we are perhaps looking at a withdrawal of 35,000 troops, this could mean that 8 of our 15 brigades/regimental combat teams pull out plus 7,000 other supporting troops. That would leave seven brigades plus a whole lot of Army support personnel and Air Force and Navy people in support roles. So even if the total draw down doesn't look too great, the fact is more than half the trigger pullers could be out. Our casualties could be down to single digits of KIA per month if we remain in the fight.

What I will really be interested in seeing is whether the remaining seven brigades are in combat or in garrison to watch the Iranians (assuming we still need to watch them).

And given that the Iraqi military will still be a light infantry counter-insurgency army at the end of the year, I wouldn't expect our numbers to go down much from just under 100,000 for quite some time. But the important thing will be that our combat role should dwindle.

I expected that at some point our troop strength in Iraq would be 75,000 including 7 combat brigades. As Iraqi logistics and support troops come on line, we could drop another 20,000 or so to get to this point.

And once there, we will remain at that level until the Iraqis can handle large scale conventional operations to defend their borders from conventional attack. And if the Iraqis want us to leave and we want to leave.

Even after Iraq can defend itself, I could see a few American combat brigades and Air Force units remaining in the 25,000-30,000 level for a long time if the Iraqis are agreeable.

We are so close to winning this that it is frustrating to see the panicistas gaining clout back home.

UPDATE: Stand-To! links to a piece of idiocy by two so-called defense analysts who either don't understand what I wrote above or who just want us to lose:

The best alternative among these is a balanced plan named "strategic redeployment," which calls for a gradual drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq over the next two years. The plan began circulating in Washington in September after Lawrence Korb, a former Reagan administration assistant defense secretary, and I published a paper on it at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank.

The plan calls on the Bush administration to encourage Iraqi leaders to take control of their country by saying the U.S. military is going to leave Iraq - and set a timetable for doing so. The proposal says the United States should draw down its troop presence from its present level of 136,000 to 60,000 by the end of the year, and to virtually zero by the end of 2007. It also encourages more vigorous diplomacy in the region and in Iraq, to bring the country's factions together.

I remember back in 1975 when Saigon announced they were carrying out a "strategic withdrawal" in the face of Hanoi's massive offensive. What it meant then was retreat and eventual defeat. It still means the same thing.

And as I note, drawing down to virtually zero too soon means that Iraq will lack the support services that they cannot yet provide (intelligence, logistics, repair, training, etc.) and will lack the robust conventional power to deter foreign invaders. These capabilities will take time to build in Iraq, but Katulis and Korb don't care about that. Or don't understand.

I don't know who the article's author, Brian Katulis, is; but I do know Lawrence Korb. I think he legally changed his name to "Lawrence Korb Former Reagan Assistant Secretary of Defense" since I never see his name in print without the former job appended to it. He can chant "Reagan" as much as he likes. But I remember Reagan, and Korb is no Reaganite.

And this plan is no plan at all. And do I need to even address the idea that "vigorous" diplomacy with Iran will do any good inside Iraq? Some people are seriously ignorant of the basics.