Friday, June 09, 2006

U.S. Troop Cut Goal For Iraq Not To Be Met By Year's End

The long-planned schedule for the phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is being stymied by the deteriorating security situation.

Senior administration and military officials now acknowledge that there is little chance the United States can reach the milestone of reducing American troop levels in Iraq to 100,000 by December, a goal that earlier in the year had seemed within reach.

The subject of future troop levels is certain to be an important part of President Bush's two-day war cabinet meeting, which will start Monday at Camp David. Senior American commanders in Iraq will take part by a video link. In preparation, military planners in Iraq and at the Pentagon have been refining troop-rotation proposals that, in the best case, would reduce levels to 110,000 to 120,000 troops by the end of December, from current levels of about 130,000, administration and military officials said.

Any decision to delay the informal timetable of reducing American troops to 100,000 would signal that the field commanders responsible for securing and stabilizing specific regions across Iraq had prevailed in the military's intense internal discussions of the road ahead. Many of these commanders have said privately that now is not the time to draw down American troops, given the continuing violence and the need to give the new Iraqi government time to prove its competence and to garner popular support.

The troop projections that are expected to be discussed were assembled before the killing Wednesday night of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leading foreign terrorist commander in Iraq. But officials said Thursday that they did not expect Mr. Zarqawi's elimination alone to affect the assessments of how many troops were needed in coming months.

The killing of Zarqawi is not looking to be necessarily a win-win situation, according to some experts who spoke to the Washington Post.

Zarqawi himself is considered to have fallen out of favor with al-Qaeda as a whole during that time, allegedly because of his slowness to declare fealty to bin Laden and because al-Qaeda leaders saw that the beheadings and wholesale slaughter of civilians by Zarqawi's group revolted supporters instead of rallying them.

"The man was a burden on al-Qaeda," said Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper and a noted Palestinian observer of international militant groups.

"I believe personally that President Bush unintentionally gave al-Qaeda a huge reward in getting rid of Zarqawi," Atwan said by telephone from London. "He was an unmanageable bully who forced himself as a leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq."

No one should mislead themselves into believing that this is necessarily a turning point for the better for the U.S. endeavor in Iraq.

"We've been here so many times: the killing of Uday and Qusay [Hussein], the capture of Saddam, the elections, the transfer of sovereignty, the new government -- all marked by euphoria, lots of talk of tipping points, lots of high fives and then dismay as Iraq continues to spiral into oblivion," said retired Marine Lt. Col. Dale Davis, a former intelligence officer still active in the Middle East...

"If it is just Zarqawi, it is largely a political and propaganda victory and could disappear as quickly as capturing Saddam or killing his sons," said Anthony H. Cordesman, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "You are going to turn him into a martyr to those who support his cause. If you have more Iraqi insurgents become more visible and more intense, this doesn't necessarily make it worse for the insurgency."


Anonymous About:Blank said...

The irony of it all, eh?


6/10/2006 5:27 AM  
Blogger Effwit said...



This fact is lost on supporters of the ill-fated U.S. endeavor in Iraq.

6/10/2006 8:46 AM  
Blogger DrewL said...

What's your sense of how the Zarqawi "death" fits into the broader context of the info-ops/psy-ops that's playing out in Iraq and Iran?

On the surface, of course, it's the U.S. getting rid of a ruthless enemy and insurgency leader. But there's so much going on below the surface that anything we see ON the surface is nothing but window dressing.

6/10/2006 6:35 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...


Well, it has been established months ago that the U.S. military used Zarqawi as the fulcrum of an info-op directed at the American people. The goal was to stimulate public support for the war.

See Zarqawi Emphasis in Info-Op MATRIX Exposed

I think that Zarqawi had outlived his usefulness to the United States. Which happened to coincide with our turn toward Iran as bogeyman.

You are precisely right about anything that the average American sees about Iraq and Iran being actually window dressing that furthers the agenda of the administration.

Did you notice that when the U.S. military announced Zarqawi's demise, an Army General officially nominated a dude named al-Masri as the successor to the villianous head-cutter?

The General wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page.

6/10/2006 6:52 PM  

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