We can't leave yet
Despite Political Pressure to Scale Back, Logistics Are Pinning Down U.S. in Iraq
By DAVID S. CLOUD and THOM SHANKER
Published: May 14, 2006
WASHINGTON, May 13 — Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld regularly says he wants major troop withdrawals from Iraq, if possible this year. But he rarely mentions the daunting challenges beyond the volatile security situation that are preventing a rapid withdrawal.
Discussions of when, how fast and how far to draw down American troops in Iraq will no doubt be influenced by the domestic political mood, with Congressional elections approaching in November. Yet those pushing for significant withdrawals will run into an undeniable law of military operations: the American combat troops who remain in Iraq, and the growing number of Iraqi security forces, will still require substantial numbers of supporting American forces to remain, too, to supply food, fuel and ammunition and otherwise support combat operations.
As the Bush administration considers how and when to draw down the nearly 133,000 American troops still in Iraq, those logistical factors, among many other pressures and counterpressures, will weigh heavily toward keeping a sizable force there, delivering supplies, gathering and analyzing intelligence and providing air support to Iraqi security forces.
President Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld have always insisted that decisions on withdrawals will be based on the security situation in Iraq and the readiness of the new Iraqi Army, and that they will be made only after recommendations from senior commanders, including General George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Iraq, and General John P. Abizaid, the overall American commander in the region.
Senior officers are aware of the growing political pressure on the Bush administration to carry out withdrawals. Many are sympathetic with the goal, worried that the demands of keeping many more than 100,000 troops in Iraq for several more years could do long-term harm to the military and holding out hope that a permanent Iraqi government would do much to stabilize the country.
But despite the political pressures, and despite the argument by senior officials like Mr. Rumsfeld and General Abizaid that a large American presence may actually be fueling the insurgency, commanders are discussing whether the volatile security situation would allow any significant withdrawals at all in the short term, according to interviews with Pentagon officials and officers in Iraq in recent weeks.
Indeed, a trend of American troops pulling back to their bases and letting Iraqi troops take the lead has had to be scaled back, and the Americans have had to resume more active operations to help stop the widespread sectarian violence that has killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians in the past few months, a senior officer said. At the same time, attacks on American troops in March and April were at their highest point since last fall.
"General Casey is feeling the pressure. He knows how hard this is on the Army, but he's getting pulled in two directions," said a general who recently served in Iraq. Like some other officers and officials interviewed for this article, he was granted anonymity because he said he had been ordered not to discuss troop levels. Lt. Gen. Robert Fry, a British Royal Marine and the deputy ground commander in Iraq, said that insurgents have increased their attacks in an attempt to disrupt formation of a permanent Iraqi government for fear it could attract widespread support among Iraqis.
Bullshit, they see the US getting weaker and the Iraqi government a joke and are pressing their advantage
posted by Steve @ 2:32:00 AM