Odierno: No Major Iraq Troop Withdrawals Before April
Buried at the end of a New York Times piece is this rather significant declaration from Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq:
Gen. Ray Odierno, the commanding general of United States forces, said Wednesday that he was still hopeful elections would be held on time, but he added that the military could adapt if there was a delay.
“What I believe I have is flexibility,” he said, adding that significant reductions in troops were not scheduled until April or May.
April or May? That has real consequences for any escalation of troops in Afghanistan. As I report today, there will be practically no undeployed available combat brigades if President Obama goes with a 30,000-40,000 troop increase. It’s not like you can just pluck a brigade from Iraq and send it to Afghanistan. Soldiers get at least 12 months of so-called “dwell time” between deployments. But Odierno’s schedule means that combat brigades leaving Iraq won’t be until at least April 2011 for Afghanistan, which is a major issue for sustaining an escalation — not a temporary “surge” that lasts for one deployment — in that war, something Gen. Stanley McChrystal has suggested is necessary.
The combat mission in Iraq ends in August 2010 and Odierno has said troop levels will decline to 50,000. But he certainly is backloading the drawdown as much as possible. Where’s Gen. David Petraeus on this? As head of U.S. Central Command, he’s both Odierno’s boss and McChrystal’s boss, and deconflicting the needs of both commanders is one of his primary responsibilities.