The United States is currently engaged in what is advertised as its largest movement of troops since the Second World War -- the rotation of Army forces into and out of Iraq. When the rotation is complete, about 105,000 soldiers will be in Iraq, down from the present 130,000 or so, but still much more than U.S. decisionmakers had hoped or planned for by this time.
The stress of the long-term occupation of Iraq has led the Pentagon, with the greatest of reluctance, to expand the size of the Army over the next few years. This means, perversely enough, that we are building up in order to be able to pull out more slowly. Force levels are too high to be sustained indefinitely. But they must be kept relatively high for as long as possible, because their objectives remain unachieved. (The cynical would say that this is merely a way of deferring impending failure to a less politically sensitive moment.)
So what do we expect to get from the extended presence of American and coalition partner soldiers in Iraq? How can they best contribute to our political goals (discussed here and here)? Is there any hope to break out of the trap we're caught in?
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