Petraeus Talks About Making Our Footprint In Iraq “A Good Bit Smaller”

One way or the other, we will be bringing a lot of American troops home next year,

The top American commander in Iraq said Wednesday he was preparing recommendations on troop cuts before he returns to Washington next month for a report to Congress, and believes the U.S. footprint in Iraq will have to be “a good bit smaller” by next summer.

But he cautioned against a quick or significant U.S. withdrawal that could surrender “the gains we have fought so hard to achieve.”

Gen. David Petraeus said the “horrific and indiscriminate attacks” that killed at least 250 Yazidis, an ancient religious sect, in northwestern Iraq Tuesday night were the work of al-Qaida in Iraq. That would bolster his argument, he said, against too quickly drawing down the 30,000 additional U.S. troops deployed in the first half of the year.

…Petraeus, who wrote the Army’s book on counterinsurgency, said he and his staff were “trying to do the battlefield geometry right now” as he prepared his troop-level recommendations.

“We know that the surge has to come to an end, there’s no question about that. I think everyone understands that by about a year or so from now we’ve got to be a good bit smaller than we are right now.

“The question is how do you do that … so that you can retain the gains we have fought so hard to achieve and so you can keep going. Again we are not at all satisfied where we are right now. We have made some progress but again there’s still a lot of hard work to be done against the different extremist elements that do threaten the new Iraq.”

Petraeus said the shift in loyalty among many Sunni insurgents in Iraq’s western Anbar province, Baghdad’s Amariyah district and a similar hotspot in the city called Ghazaliyah was “a pretty big deal.”

The surge can’t last forever and it wasn’t designed to do so. We can only keep it going so long and then the Iraqis are going to have to take up a lot of the slack.

So, since that’s the case, why hand Al-Qaeda victory and run like a scalded dog out of Iraq when we will still be able to significantly reduce our footprint even if we do the right thing?

In the end, whether Iraq succeeds or not is going to depend on the Iraqis and all we can do is hand them “a republic, if (they) can keep it.” However, there’s a heck of a lot of difference between pulling out when we know they’re not ready or setting a timeline for defeat and doing all we can within reason to help them succeed before we take the training wheels off.

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