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Air Force Times: Preparations for Iraq withdrawal underway

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.airforcetimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-1008438.php August 03, 2005 Preparations for Iraq withdrawal underway By Robert Burns Associated Press The
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 2005
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      August 03, 2005

      Preparations for Iraq withdrawal underway

      By Robert Burns
      Associated Press

      The Pentagon is laying the groundwork for beginning a
      withdrawal from Iraq, even as it is weighing the risk
      of moving so quickly that Iraqi security forces
      collapse without U.S. support.

      The benefits of a U.S. drawdown are pretty clear.
      Fewer troops would likely mean fewer casualties and
      less strain on the Army and Marine Corps, which
      already are stretched thin. And it would lessen the
      degree to which the presence of foreign forces fuels
      an anti-U.S. insurgency.

      There are now about 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq in a
      war with dwindling popularity among American voters.

      At best, a U.S. drawdown would begin shortly after
      elections for a new government in Baghdad, scheduled
      for December. That assumes two other difficult
      political milestones are achieved first: drafting a
      constitution by Aug. 15 and holding a national
      referendum in mid-October to approve the constitution.

      It also assumes the insurgency does not get worse —
      and that Iraqi security forces prove themselves ready
      for combat.

      If the U.S. were to withdraw before the Iraqis were
      ready, the American sacrifices of the past 2½ years
      could be lost — and President Bush would face pressure
      to explain why the invasion was worth it.

      Even though Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has
      not yet received even a recommendation from commanders
      on when to start the pullout, he has been talking more
      directly in recent days about the security transition.

      “Once Iraq is safely in the hands of the Iraqi people,
      and a government they elected under a new
      constitution, our troops will be able to come home
      with the honor they have earned,” Rumsfeld said in a
      speech prepared for the Dallas Chamber of Commerce on
      Tuesday. Rumsfeld delivered only abbreviated remarks
      by telephone after his plane had mechanical problems.

      Noticeably absent from his comments was any assertion
      that defeating the insurgency is one of the conditions
      for an American withdrawal.

      In Rumsfeld’s view, shared by top U.S. commanders in
      Iraq, it must be left to the Iraqis to overcome the
      insurgency. Likewise, the Iraqis must be prodded to
      take the lead in other areas of their struggle to

      Among the signs that the United States is pressing a
      faster transition to Iraqi-led security, to open the
      way for a U.S. withdrawal:

      • After taking up his post last month as U.S.
      ambassador to Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad announced the
      creation of a U.S.-Iraq task force to develop a
      strategy and conditions for transferring the security
      responsibility from the U.S.-led coalition forces to
      the Iraqis. “Our common goal is to help Iraq stand on
      its own feet as quickly as possible,” Khalilzad said,
      adding that this would allow for a phased U.S.

      • Last weekend Iraqi police and a brigade of the 5th
      Iraqi Army Division formally took full control of an
      area in Diyala Province, to the northeast of Baghdad,
      known as Khalis Qadah, replacing a U.S. Army unit.
      Col. Archie Davis, spokesman for Gen. George Casey,
      the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said the transition
      was made because the Iraqis had demonstrated their
      proficiency at fighting the insurgents without U.S.

      • Mowaffak Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser,
      said Monday that several cities in the more stable
      south and north had been identified as areas where
      withdrawal of foreign forces could likely start soon.
      The cities included Najaf, Karbala, Samawah, Diwaniyah
      and Nasiriyah in the heavily Shiite Muslim south, and
      possibly Irbil and Sulaymaniyah in the predominantly
      Kurdish north.

      The battle against the insurgency brought another
      stark reminder Tuesday of the cost in U.S. lives of
      remaining in Iraq. Military officials announced that
      seven Marines were killed in action on Monday, pushing
      the total number of U.S. deaths in Iraq since the
      March 2003 invasion beyond the 1,800 mark. More than
      13,700 have been wounded.

      Iraqis — both civilians and security forces — have
      taken the lion’s share of the casualties in recent
      months as U.S. troops have deliberately scaled back
      their unilateral combat missions to operate more with
      Iraqi forces. There are now more than 180,000 Iraqi
      police and army troops that have been trained and
      equipped by U.S. forces.

      On a visit to Iraq last week, Rumsfeld drew a direct
      link between American combat deaths and the urgency of
      getting the Iraqis to complete a constitution by Aug.

      “We have troops on the ground there. People are
      getting killed,” Rumsfeld said, adding that “political
      progress is necessary to defeat the insurgency.”
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