Iraq Troop Drawdown Faces Opposition

March 4th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Iraq Troop Drawdown Faces Opposition

Miami Herald
March 4, 2008 U.S. military leaders said they are worried that a troop drawdown would allow insurgents to regain lost ground in Iraq.
By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy News Service
HAWIJAH, Iraq -- Despite optimistic assessments that the buildup of U.S. troops has turned around the situation in Iraq, some American commanders and the soldiers who report to them fear that continuing to withdraw U.S. troops could create more instability.
Top commanders and ground troops said in interviews that a precipitous American withdrawal would undermine their security gains, and would lead to higher U.S. casualties and an uphill struggle if insurgents and militias were able to regain lost ground.
''Our anxiety is to make sure we get [the drawdown] right,'' said Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, the commander of Multinational Division-North, which includes Hawijah, about 175 miles north of Baghdad. ``There isn't going to be another surge.''
The current American plan is to withdraw the five brigades that were sent as part of the buildup by this summer. To facilitate the troop increase, the military extended tours from 12 to 15 months, which added to the strains on an already stretched Army. If the drawdown proceeds, 15 brigades -- roughly 140,000 troops -- will remain, the Pentagon has estimated. And many hope that the military can return combat tours to 12 months.
Military officials said that to draw down forces, they would thin the U.S. military presence in Baghdad, the once-restive Anbar province and northern Iraq. More responsibility will fall to Iraqi forces: Iraqi police increasingly will be responsible for city populations, and the Iraqi army for outlying areas.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, said that soldiers had some ''very real concerns.'' But as American troops leave, Iraqi forces ''will have to pick up more responsibility,'' he said in an interview with McClatchy in Baghdad.
He stressed that no area will go uncovered and that the United States would retain its ''footprint'' in areas that saw large-scale violence just a few weeks ago. One senior military commander, who asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly, said: ``We are not going to draw down unless the security situation is sustainable.''
Pentagon officials already have proposed an indefinite ''pause'' to assess the situation after the United States pulls out the five ''surge'' combat brigades this summer.
On Friday, a senior White House official suggested that the pause would last no more than six weeks.
The next day, President Bush rejected suggestions of a pause deadline.
During his three-day visit to Iraq over the weekend, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told American troops that he couldn't promise shorter deployments or a quicker withdrawal.
''You worry about sacrificing all those gains,'' Mullen said afterward in an interview with McClatchy, while flying out of Baghdad.
The acting mayor in Hawijah said he thought that the violence could return to his town if American troops left now. He said his town was about 80 percent secure, but that until it reached 100 percent, the violence could return.
Mayor Sabhan Khalif Ali, 38, needs more help from the government than from U.S. troops these days, as well as guidance on what role he can play.
''We need direction,'' he said.

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