ISTANBUL – It’s 10 p.m. in the lowest level of the Istanbul airport. In 20 minutes I’ll be allowed to board my plane to Kabul, bringing me to the capitol city of Afghanistan at the crack of dawn. Before I made my way down to the gate, an International Herald-Tribune headline caught my eye, for admittedly parochial reasons. It read: Pentagon Urges Shift Of Troops From Iraq.
Finally, I thought, a sign that the service chiefs and their staffs recognize what Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen has said -– that after waging two simultaneous wars for nearly six years, Iraq and Afghanistan truly are a zero-sum resource question.
But that doesn’t actually cash out to much, according to the IHT.
Apparently Gen. David Petraeus, outgoing commander of the Iraq war, incoming commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia, will recommend that just one Army brigade — about 3,500 soldiers — should leave Iraq and its equivalent arrive in Afghanistan. A single Marine battalion — around 1,000 to 1,500 Marines — slated for Iraq should instead go to Afghanistan.
While 5,000 more soldiers and Marines for Afghanistan isn’t nothing, that’s a third of what U.S. commanders in Afghanistan desire. In another day, I should know what troops in Afghanistan think of the size of that increase.