An Iraqi Troop Follow-Up
The new Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, today said Iraqis could be in control of security by the end of the year in all of the country apart from Baghdad and Anbar province.
Mr Maliki, appearing at a news conference with Tony Blair, who is visiting Baghdad, indicated that he expected the Iraqi government to begin taking over control of some of the more peaceful provinces from the multinational forces from next month.
…Mr Blair declined to set out a precise timetable for the return of British troops, but said that the UK wanted to move as fast on the issue as was possible, without jeopardising security.
“We have always, under the Iraqi-isation strategy, had the perspective of building up the Iraqi security force capability and as they build up, we are able to draw down,” he said. “That is what was envisaged in the UN resolution under which our forces are here. We want to move as fast as we can on it, but it has got to be done in a way that protects the security of the Iraqi people.”
He added: “We have got the Iraqi forces up to a strength, I think, of round about 250,000. They come up to their full strength at the end of this year. There is the notion, which has been there for a significant period of time, of slowly being able to release individual provinces into the control of Iraqi forces.”
If the Iraqis completely take over 16 out of 18 provinces, which is entirely possible given how many troops they now have and the fact that most of Iraq’s provinces are relatively quiet, we’re obviously going to free up a lot of troops to come home.
Of course, you’ll hear Democrats claiming that this is a political stunt, but that’s not true. Let me repost something that was up on RWN in August of last year. It’s question and answer #9 from a post called Answering 10 Frequently Asked Questions About Iraq.
9) Ok, so the Iraqis are making progress. What does that mean for our troops? When can they start to come home?
The President has refused to set a timetable for a pull out because he believes it would give the insurgents an “incentive ‘to wait us out.'” Instead Bush has said that as: ““Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.”
Although the President is keeping his lips buttoned, some of our generals have been a bit more forthcoming about our plans.
Gen. George W. Casey has said that there may be: “some “fairly substantial reductions” after these elections in the spring and summer.
Furthermore, the Washington Post noted in late July that Lt. Gen. John R. Vines: “told reporters last month that four or five of 17 battalions, roughly one-quarter of U.S. forces in Iraq, could be pulled out if security conditions improved and if Iraqi national elections scheduled for December went smoothly.”
Similarly in July, Gen. John Abizaid: “outlined a plan last month to gradually reduce by 20,000 to 30,000 by next spring the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, with more to follow in the summer and fall.”
So, it looks likely that we will see substantial troop reductions in Iraq between Jan & June of 2006, although we may actually see a temporary increase in the number of troops in Iraq over the next few months in order to provide extra security for the Iraqi elections.
Bookmark this post folks and then, if and when the Democrats start claiming a troop pull-out is a cynical move by President Bush, throw those quotes from our generals, that were made last year, right back in their faces. If we can pull a significant number of troops out of Iraq this summer it’ll be proof that the Iraqis are starting to get strong enough to handle their own security and that Bush’s policies are working. So, cross your fingers and hope that the withdrawal stories turn out to be true.