So Much for Withdrawal

Well, so much for those plans to withdraw American forces from Iraq. President Bush's big speech at the Naval Academy "did not break new ground or present a new strategy," the AP notes. So that means, despite the chatter beforehand, no new schedule for bringing troops home.GI_point.jpgWhat Bush did say is that "as Iraqi forces become more capable the mission of our forces in Iraq will continue to change."

We will continue to shift from providing security and conducting operations against the enemy nationwide to conducting more specialized operations targeted at the most dangerous terrorists.We will increasingly move out of Iraqi cities, reduce the number of bases from which we operate and conduct fewer patrols and convoys.As the Iraqi forces gain experience and the political progress advances, we will be able to decrease our troop levels in Iraq without losing our capability to defeat the terrorists.
Which says to me: kiss the "oil-spot" theory goodbye. That's the idea, which has been gaining momentum in political circles since an August Foreign Affairs article, to use our troops to set up safe havens in Iraq, and then slowly grow them out.But to do that, you need troops -- lots of troops -- to fill a city up, and patrol virtually every corner. If I'm reading between the lines of Bush's speech right, that's not the idea here -- despite talk in the President's "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" or "clear[ing]" out and "hold[ing]" insurgent epicenters.Speaking of the "Strategy," it ain't. The document reads more like a marketing document than a focused plan for winning a war. And there are some mighty odd statements in it, as Dr. AC Wonk notes. For example, the Strategy claims that:
As of November 2005, there were more than 212,000 trained and equipped Iraqi Security Forces, compared with 96,000 in September of last year.
But "Iraq did not, however, have 96,000 trained and equipped Iraqi Security Forces... in September 2004," the Wonk responds.
Adam Entous with Reuters obtained internal Defense Department documents in September 2004 that revealed only 8,169 had completed the full eight-week academy training. 46,176 of what are publicly called trained and equipped forces were listed privately as untrained.
Whatever the numbers, Bush's bottom line is clear: no big changes to Iraq strategy, despite all the heavy-breathing. "Stay the course," he repeated four times at the end of his Annapolis speech. "Our clear, hold, and build strategy is working," add his plan.
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