As the Afghanistan Debate Progresses, Iraq Drawdowns May Accelerate
The war cabinet convenes this afternoon for the first of a series of debates over Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy. Previews that don’t preview much can be found here and here. And before that happens, word comes from Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, that if January’s Iraq elections go without incident — that is, he tells The New York Times, if “you seat the government peacefully” — then Odierno may drop down to the residual force of 50,000 U.S. troops, a reduction of 74,000 troops, ahead of the August 2010 deadline.
Violence has recently risen in Iraq. But with the U.S. military under significant restriction of its freedom of operation and the Iraqi government wishing to show itself in control, the burden falls on Iraqi shoulders. Odierno said he is focused on a thorough transition to Iraqi ministerial capability for handling ongoing instability, and has updated the Joint Campaign Plan to spell out how the transition should occur. He’s scheduled to testify this morning to the House Armed Services Committee, and the transition’s course will be the subject of concern.
Army brigades leaving Iraq must have fifteen months of so-called “dwell” time at home before redeployment, unless Defense Secretary Gates and the Army’s leadership decides to change that policy (and the odds on that are long, since Gates painfully shortened dwell time in 2007 to support the Iraq surge). You can’t just pick a brigade out of Iraq and send it to Afghanistan. But the Institute for the Study of War — run by the Kagans — has put together a list of what brigades could become available in the next couple months for a prospective Afghanistan deployment, should Obama decide another troop increase is necessary and supports a sound strategy. Kudos to the Kagans — yes, I said it — whom I criticized last week for not providing precisely what this document outlines.