Intent on demonstrating progress in Iraq, the top U.S. general there is expected by Bush administration officials to recommend removing American troops soon from several areas where commanders believe security has improved, possibly including Al Anbar province.
According to the officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus is expected to propose the partial pullback in his September status report to Congress, when both the war’s critics and supporters plan to reassess its course. Administration officials who support the current troop levels hope Petraeus’ recommendations will persuade Congress to reject pressure for a major U.S. withdrawal.
The expected recommendation would authorize U.S. commanders to withdraw troops from places that have become less violent and turn over security responsibilities to Iraqi forces.
But it does not necessarily follow that Petraeus would call for reducing the overall number of troops in the country. Instead, he could move them to another hot spot, or use them to create a reserve force to counter any rise in violence.
“That is the form of the recommendation we are anticipating him to come back with,” a senior administration official said. But referring to the redeployment options, the official added, “I just don’t know which of those categories he is going to be in.”
Petraeus has not told the White House where he might recommend reductions. But military commanders have indicated in recent briefings that Nineveh province in northern Iraq and its capital, Mosul, like Al Anbar in the west, could be an area from which it might be suitable for the U.S. to withdraw.
Bob Owens actually talked to someone on Petraeus’ staff today and got this clarification:
He will most likely provide a recommendation to his chain of command taking into account the needs of the Army and Marines as well as the other forces. The key will be no matter what recommendation is proffered, not to unhinge the tactical geometry and to undo the tactical momentum and successes that have been made. At this point, I don’t believe anyone should take for granted that troops will be leaving or redeploying till there is more information on the trends and effects of what is happening on the ground.
Jules Crittenden on the possibility of a partial pullback:
Telling Congress that you can and want to drawdown should be a two-fer. It’s a sign of progress and indicates a willingness to drawdown as able, as long as it is not accompanied by any kind of requirement to do so without regard for conditions on the ground. But the LA Times, noting that past pullouts have created a vacuum to be exploited by the enemy, highlights the probable, hypocritical talking-points reaction to this kind of gesture. Watch for withdrawal enthusiasts to denounce any partial drawdown on grounds that Iraqi forces aren’t ready, and then go on to proclaim the cause hopeless, and demand total abandonment.
LOL “withdrawal enthusiasts” – the nice term for “cut and runners,” of course
James Joyner notes that the report will actually be written by the WH, the very idea of which he believes will undermine the report’s credibility a great deal.