Morning Report 7/11/05
Withdrawal Symptoms

While chaos spreads, secret U.S. plans to pull troops out of Iraq

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UK defense secretary John Reid calls the withdrawal plans "prudent planning"

Don Rumsfeld and his Pentagon warhawks are secretly making plans to beat a hasty retreat from Little Bighorn, otherwise known as Iraq, according to a U.K. defense document unearthed yesterday by The Mail on Sunday, whose Simon Walters wrote:

    The document, Options For Future UK Force Posture In Iraq, is the first conclusive proof that preparations for a major withdrawal from Iraq are well advanced.

This is of course the exact opposite from the public bluster emanating from George W. Bush and Tony Blair.

What's most fascinating is that the document, a memo to Blair written by Defense Secretary John Reid, reveals that the most important battle of the Iraq debacle is a long-distance war between the Pentagon and the commanders on the ground in Iraq, who warn that the situation is too chaotic for us to drastically reduce our forces there.

Of course, keep in mind that the midterm elections next year could prove extremely damaging to Bush's handlers if we still have 150,000 American soldiers bogged down in the Iraq debacle.

Now this U.K. story, unlike the Downing Street Memo, isn't being ignored by U.S. newspapers. The Washington Post, at least, splashed it on A1 this morning.

The scenario, unfortunately, is playing out exactly like what happened during 2002: The Brits (though not Reid) are urging caution, and the U.S. is blustering ahead—or in this case, the U.S. is trying to get the hell out of Dodge while Dodge is still extremely dodgy.

The memo reveals U.S. plans to pull out about 100,000 troops by early next year, despite the hard, cold fact that Iraq is becoming more chaotic and dangerous by the day.

Only yesterday, scores of people, including Iraqi police recruits, were blown up by insurgents, and sectarian murders and warfare are increasing.

Reid's planning memo, marked "SECRET—UK EYES ONLY," says:

    US political military thinking is still evolving.There is a strong US military desire for significant force reductions.

    Emerging US plans assume 14 out of 18 provinces could be handed over to Iraqi control by early 2006, allowing a reduction in [Allied troops] from 176,000 down to 66,000. There is, however, a debate between the Pentagon/Centcom, who favour a relatively bold reduction in force numbers, and the multinational force in Iraq, whose approach is more cautious.

Walters sums it up this way in his story:

    A secret paper written by Defence Secretary John Reid for Tony Blair reveals that many of the 8,500 British troops in Iraq are set to be brought home within three months, with most of the rest returning six months later.

    The leaked document, marked Secret: UK Eyes Only, appears to fly in the face of Mr Blair and President Bush's pledges that Allied forces will not quit until Iraq's own forces are strong enough to take control of security.

    If British troops pull out, other members of the Alliance are likely to follow. The memo says other international forces in Southern Iraq currently under British control will have to be handled carefully if Britain withdraws. It says they will not feel safe and may also leave.

    Embarrassingly, the document says the Americans are split over the plan—and it suggests one of the reasons for getting British troops out is to save money. Mr Reid says cutting UK troop numbers to 3,000 by the middle of next year will save £500 million a year, though it will be 18 months before the cash comes through.

So, are Iraqis ready to take over their own country? Well, we've bombed it and bulldozed and killed tens of thousands of them, and civil war has already started, and men so desperate for jobs that they're even willing to risk their lives joining the Iraqi police force are being killed while they wait in line to sign up.

Looks like our work is done.



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