Troop draw down (maybe)
The Bush administration seems to be on a political offensive in regards to Iraq. Rice and Rumsfeld were scheduled to visit once the formation of a permanent government began. Now, General Casey offers the following from CNN (my emphasis):
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has tentative plans to reduce U.S. troops levels in Iraq by about 30,000 by the end of the year, senior military officials said Wednesday.The Guardian from August 2005 (my emphasis):
Casey said he is still on his "general timeline" for recommending further U.S. troop reductions.
The officials said that Casey is considering reducing troop levels from 15 brigades to about 10 brigades.
That would mean U.S. troop levels could be under 100,000 by year's end, officials said. About 160,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq in December, when security was tightened for the country's parliamentary elections. About 130,000 are in the country now.
American generals hope to withdraw up to 30,000 troops from Iraq by next spring, signalling increasingly firm plans for a phased US pull-out.And (same source):
In a classified briefing to senior Pentagon officials last month General John Abizaid, the top US commander in the Middle East, reportedly said the equivalent of more than 20 brigades would leave if conditions were right.
The assessment tallied with last week's statement by General George Casey, the top commander in Iraq, that there could be "some fairly substantial reductions" in troops by next spring and summer.
Both men cautioned that shrinking the 138,000-strong US force would happen only if the political process was on track and Iraqi forces became better at handling security.
The New York Times quoted Gen Abizaid as saying the number of US troops would rise to 160,000 for elections scheduled in December but quickly return to its current size.And February 2005's Washington Post:
If conditions allowed, the force would diminish by 20,000-30,000 by spring and, possibly, tens of thousands more later in 2006.
Buoyed by a higher turnout and less violence than expected in Sunday's Iraqi elections, Pentagon authorities have decided to start reducing the level of U.S. forces in Iraq next month by about 15,000 troops, down to about 135,000, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said yesterday.Whether the situation on the ground warrants a draw down to early 2005 levels (and below) is at best debatable.