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Drawing Down Iraq - Drastic troop cuts are in the Pentagon's secret plans.

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    MSNBC.com Drawing Down Iraq Drastic troop cuts are in the Pentagon s secret plans. By Michael Hirsh and John Barry Newsweek Aug. 8, 2005 issue - Donald
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2005
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      MSNBC.com

      Drawing Down Iraq
      Drastic troop cuts are in the Pentagon's secret plans.
      By Michael Hirsh and John Barry
      Newsweek

      Aug. 8, 2005 issue - Donald Rumsfeld doesn't like long-term occupations.
      He's always made that clear. After U.S. forces took Baghdad, the Defense
      secretary had plans to reduce the U.S. presence in Iraq to 40,000 troops
      by the fall of 2003. Then the insurgency struck.

      Now Rumsfeld is quietly moving toward his original goal—three years
      late. The Pentagon has developed a detailed plan in recent months to
      scale down the U.S. troop presence in Iraq to about 80,000 by mid-2006
      and down to 40,000 to 60,000 troops by the end of that year, according
      to two Pentagon officials involved in the planning who asked not to be
      identified because of the sensitive nature of their work. Their account
      squares with a British memo leaked in mid-July. "Emerging U.S. plans
      assume that 14 out of 18 provinces could be handed over to Iraqi control
      by early 2006, allowing a reduction in overall [U.S. and Coalition
      forces] from 176,000 down to 66,000," says the Ministry of Defense memo.

      Gen. George Casey, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, hinted at those
      numbers last week. Casey told reporters that the United States will be
      "still able to take some fairly substantial reductions" if Iraq can keep
      to the timeline set out in the U.S.-sponsored interim constitution,
      which calls for elections for a permanent Iraqi government by Dec. 15,
      2005. After that, U.S. officials believe, the main task of the U.S.
      occupation will have been completed.

      U.S. officials denied that Casey's remarks represented any change in
      policy. But earlier this year the Pentagon had been mum on a withdrawal
      timetable, in part so as not to encourage the insurgents. Now the
      conditions for U.S. withdrawal no longer include a defeated insurgency,
      Pentagon sources say. The new administration mantra is that the
      insurgency can be beaten only politically, by the success of Iraq's new
      government.

      Indeed, Washington is now less concerned about the insurgents than the
      unwillingness of Iraq's politicians to make compromises for the sake of
      national unity. Pentagon planners want to send a spine-stiffening
      message: the Americans won't be there forever. U.S. domestic factors are
      also forcing President Bush's hand. The Bush administration wants to
      pre-empt growing public pressure for withdrawal, which could give the
      insurgents a Vietnam-like strategic goal. Military planners, meanwhile,
      are deeply concerned about driving away Army careerists and recruits if
      current deployments are forced into 2007. If the U.S. Army has to do
      another rotation into Iraq in the fall of 2006 to keep force levels up
      to their current 138,000, it "goes off a cliff," says retired Gen. Barry
      McCaffrey.

      The question is whether the insurgents will see the U.S. plan as a rush
      to the doors. And whether they and Iraqi militias will come to dominate
      the country in the vacuum left by U.S. forces, leading to civil war. A
      too-rapid withdrawal could even hand a victory to foreign jihadists
      streaming into Iraq. "What we have is a plan of action for pulling our
      troops out, not a strategy for success," says Andrew Krepinevich, a
      Washington strategist. "That's more of a Vietnam solution: 'Peace with
      honor'." The phrase proved hollow back then. The Pentagon is betting it
      won't this time.

      With Joe Cochrane in Baghdad
      © 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

      © 2005 MSNBC.com

      URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8770418/site/newsweek/
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