Gates and top uniformed officers sketched out a plan that runs counter to pledges by Democratic presidential contenders to bring about a rapid drawdown of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. One candidate, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, called for the withdrawal of nearly all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of 2009.
Gates and the uniformed military leadership said a smaller U.S. presence will be needed for the foreseeable future to provide support for Iraqi forces. They didn't go as far as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., however, who says that U.S. troops may be stationed in Iraq for decades or even a century.
"We'll have some people here, if the government of Iraq wants it, for some period of time. That could be five to 10 years. But it will not be at the levels we're at now. I don't believe that that will be necessary," said Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the No. 2 commander in Iraq, during a teleconference from Baghdad.
He said the support could include U.S. air power for five to 10 years, close air support for ground operations, helicopters and "an appropriate number of ground forces that go along with that." Odierno gave no figure for the ground forces, saying "that will be dictated by the situation on the ground."
The above is from Nancy A. Youssef's "Despite dropping violence, Gates calls for extended U.S. presence in Iraq" (McClatchy Newspapers) breaking the ugly truth that independent media may or may not find the time to address today. Ann Scott Tyson's "Iraq May Need Military Help for Years, Officials Say" (Washington Post) covers the same theme:
Senior U.S. military officials projected yesterday that the Iraqi army and police will grow to an estimated 580,000 members by the end of the year but that shortages of key personnel, equipment, weaponry and logistical capabilities mean that Iraq's security forces will probably require U.S. military support for as long as a decade.
"The truth is that they simply cannot fix, supply, arm or fuel themselves completely enough at this point," said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik, head of the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq.
[. . .]
Iraqi security forces now consist of nearly 500,000 personnel, after a 55 percent increase in the size of the Iraqi army over the past year, Dubik said. The Iraqi government envisions increasing that number to 580,000 by the end of 2008, with an ultimate goal of building a force of as many as 640,000, he said.
Part of the rapid growth, however, has resulted not from additional recruits but because the Iraqi government has placed other existing security forces under the oversight of the ministries of defense and interior, Dubik said. In addition, the latest count is based on Iraqi government data rather than on U.S. military data, a change detailed in a Pentagon report released last month.
While those two papers offer reality, others are less fortunate. Thom Shanker apparently was forced to wear a blindfold to a press briefing and can't find his way back. It's a really bad article and embarrassing for the New York Times which usually is all over the "Officials said . . . . and then they said . . . And then another said . . ." beat. Over at the Los Angeles Times, Julie Through the Gasbags buries his own lede and even his context comes late:
Iraq's defense minister, Abdul-Qader Mohammed Jassim Mifarji, has said Iraqi forces will not be able to assume responsibility for internal security until 2012 or be able to defend the country's borders before 2019.
However Julian Barnes does at least provide humor. Read the above again and then get ready for the punchline: "But Odierno said that with U.S. help, the Iraqi forces could be ready sooner."
Well, if they couldn't amuse themselves . . . they'd amuse no one.
Meanwhile so-called peace groups rush in to wave the white flag because they've never been about anything but turning out the Democratic vote. But we'll get to them in the next entry.
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nancy a. youssef
ann scott tyson
the washington post
the new york times
julian e. barnes
the los angeles times