Friday, December 21, 2007

Troop Reduction Promises?

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said this week that should the reduced levels of violence in Iraq be sustained into the first half of 2008, he would entertain the idea to bring back from Iraq an additional five combat brigades and support troops.

Right now, Gates and General David Petraeus, the overall U.S. commander in Iraq, envision being able to reduce troop strength in Iraq back to the “steady state” level of 130,000 to 132,000 by June 2008 – put another way, from the current 20 combat brigades back to 15. Gates’ “best scenario” would remove an additional 5 combat brigades by the end of 2008 for an overall reduction from today’s 162,000 to about 60,000.

Interestingly, on Wednesday Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said that as president, she would bring about 100,000 troops home by the end of her first year in office. This is a variation on a debate statement that her goal would be to have all troops out of Iraq by the end of her first term.

Presidential politics of course add even more unreality to the political scene that is standard in Washington. This response by Senator Clinton was immediately termed a “major change” by some of her rivals for the Democratic Party’s nomination. I don’t think anyone actually called it a “flip-flop,” but that was the subtext.

Call it what they will, whoever wins the nominations for the two main parties ought to be ready to commit to not only pulling out 100,000 but all 162,000 that are there right now. The only way to leave is to leave completely. If this is not the commitment and is not a public commitment, it will never happen.


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