December 17, 2005


Key factors bode well for troop cuts in Iraq (Rowan Scarborough, December 17, 2005, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Iraq's nearly violence-free elections and the improved performance of its security forces sets the stage for the top U.S. commander there to soon recommend reducing American troop levels to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Army Gen. George Casey, the top commander, yesterday remained guarded about withdrawing troops, although he said this past summer that "substantial" troop drawdowns may occur.

But defense sources say the so-called base force that was increased to around 150,000 to provide extra security for Thursday's parliamentary election could drop to below 100,000. The public plan already calls for shrinking levels to 138,000 and administration officials have signaled thousands more troops will come home in 2006.

So after a couple years of worry-warts fretting about our breaking the armed forces, we arrive at the more realistic question of why we need a military big enough to occupy one of the most militarized and heavily-armed nations on Earth anymore?

2 Top Americans in Baghdad Urge Unity (JOHN F. BURNS, 12/17/05, NY Times)

"The people, particularly the Sunni folks that I talk to, want a government that is seen as broadly representative of all the different ethnic and sectarian groups of Iraq," Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the American commander in Iraq, told a Pentagon news conference by video link from Baghdad. "That is the one thing I think that will help pull this country together in relatively short order."

A similar statement was issued by the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born Muslim who has been an energetic conciliator here. He is expected to help broker the compromises necessary before Iraqis get their first full-term government since the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

The public statements by the two most powerful Americans in Iraq - the general who will guide military strategy and the ambassador who will coach and nudge Iraqi politicians - were a rare, and apparently coordinated, display of American influence at a key juncture in the Iraq war. With the election over, the last major milestone in the American-sponsored political process here has been passed, and Iraq's future course will depend increasingly on the four-year government that will emerge from the results.

General Casey and Mr. Khalilzad appeared concerned that the momentum gained through a largely peaceful election with wide participation from all Iraqi groups, crucially including large numbers of Sunni Arabs who had previously boycotted the political process, could be lost amid a new round of political squabbling.

Sunni Leader Open to Coalition Government (ROBERT H. REID, 12/17/05, Associated Press)
A leading Sunni politician said Friday his party would be open to an alliance with secular Shiites and Kurds to form a coalition government to run the country once the results are in from this week's parliamentary elections.

"We will not accept the exclusion of any segment of the Iraqi people unless they themselves don't want to participate," said Adan al-Dulaimi, a former Islamic studies professor who heads a Sunni Arab bloc that is now expected to have power in parliament.

U.S. officials view al-Dulaimi, who heads an alliance called the Iraqi Accordance Front, as a possible intermediary who could persuade some Sunni-led insurgent groups in restive Anbar province to join the political process after boycotting previous votes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 17, 2005 8:43 AM

And our Reserve and National Guard units have a wealth of experience that will carry on for years. No other nation can claim that, except for those that joined us.

Seriously, the reason why so many little nations sent troops, even small packets - it was in part to have their selected soldiers, the ones that they see imparting training to the future - to see how the big guy does things. That experience is invaluable, and a number figured that out. This has always been done by militaries, to send those they think are the future leaders to observe a friendly nation in combat, and report back.

Posted by: Mikey at December 17, 2005 5:31 PM