Joint Chiefs Seek Pause To Iraq Withdrawals

Joint Chiefs Seek Pause To Iraq Withdrawals
March 26th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Joint Chiefs Seek Pause To Iraq Withdrawals

Joint Chiefs Seek Pause To Iraq Withdrawals
Wall Street Journal
March 26, 2008
Pg. 8
By Yochi J. Dreazen
WASHINGTON -- Top uniformed military officials are expected to sign off on a proposal to pause troop withdrawals from Iraq after the last of the 30,000 surge soldiers return to the U.S. this summer, according to people familiar with the internal Pentagon deliberations.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff were to wade into the heated debate over troop levels in Iraq during a closed-door meeting with President Bush on Wednesday at the Pentagon. Mr. Bush is scheduled to spend about two hours with the commanders in an ultra-secure room known as The Tank. He is expected to finalize his decision by early next week.
People familiar with the matter say the chiefs will use the session to convey cautious support for temporarily holding off on additional drawdowns from Iraq after the final soldiers deployed as part of the surge return to the U.S. in July.
The chiefs are expected to stress the benefits of withdrawing additional troops later in the year if Iraq's security condition improves or remains largely unchanged, these people said. The chiefs are likely to say further reductions in the Iraq force would allow the Army to reduce the length of its deployments from 15 months to 12 months.
That change would have a positive impact on Army morale, these people said. Given the current size of the U.S. military and the need to give soldiers time between deployments, the Pentagon is able to maintain a large troop presence only by keeping soldiers in Iraq longer than what is usually required.
The chiefs are also expected to tell the president that lowering U.S. troop levels in Iraq would allow them to keep more forces in reserve in case of emergencies in the region or elsewhere in the world, these people said.
A senior military official who has taken part in the deliberations said the Joint Chiefs will tread a narrow line in their briefing to Mr. Bush. The official said the briefing will stress the importance of lowering troop levels in Iraq to reduce the manpower strains on the armed forces while also acknowledging that withdrawing other forces too quickly could threaten the recent security gains.
"Everybody is desirous of a smaller force presence," the official said, "but they are uniform in saying that you can't make the force smaller prematurely."
The official said the chiefs were unlikely to give Mr. Bush a specific number of soldiers for Iraq and would instead brief him on scenarios that could emerge during the period of assessment that will take place after the surge troops finish withdrawing in July.
Those scenarios would include a sudden deterioration in Iraq, which could require the deployment of additional troops to the country, or continued improvement, which could clear the way for further withdrawals, the official said.
The briefing will be one of the last Mr. Bush receives before making a determination about whether to order additional troop withdrawals this year.
Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, spoke with Mr. Bush by secure video teleconference Monday and advocated keeping troop levels constant for at least one month after the last of the surge forces leave Iraq in July, according to people familiar with the conversation.
Gen. Petraeus said he needs to assess the impact of withdrawing the surge forces before he can make any recommendations about additional reductions.
Gen. Petraeus's desire to keep roughly 140,000 soldiers in Iraq until at least the end of the year has long been controversial with senior military officers on the Joint Chiefs and at the military's Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several of the senior officers have said they worry that the prolonged deployment of so many soldiers to Iraq is causing growing manpower strains throughout the armed forces.
The head of Central Command, Navy Adm. William Fallon, resigned from the military abruptly this month amid disagreements with the White House and Gen. Petraeus over Iraq policy.

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