Dept. of Defense, Chad J. McNeeley/AP

Pentagon Announces New Iraq Deployments

October 02, 2008 05:15 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Troop levels will remain steady in Iraq through next year, thanks to the addition of 26,000 troops scheduled for 2009 to offset reassignments.

Deployments to Continue Until Summer 2009

The Department of Defense announced that six Army brigades, a National Guard unit and three military headquarters will begin deploying this winter, and will continue to do so throughout the summer of 2009.

“The announcement reflects the continued commitment of the United States to the security of the Iraqi people and provides replacement forces required to maintain the current level of effort in Iraq. Subsequent deployment orders will be issued on force level decisions made in the future,” the Defense Department said.

The plan to maintain troops could be affected by changes in the future as military leaders assess the country’s security situation and anticipate future troop withdrawals, reports the Associated Press.

Some of the units mentioned in the announcement could ultimately be diverted to Afghanistan, although there are no firm plans for it at the moment, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. The U.S. military has been already been reducing troop levels in Iraq and diverting some of them, although Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that any substantial increases in troops in Afghanistan will be delayed until spring and summer of next year.

Earlier this month, President George W. Bush announced that about 8,000 U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by February. According to the AP, there are currently about 152,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

While the plan is for troop levels to remain steady, the U.S. military has been relegating increasing responsibility for security to Iraqi soldiers. In September, the number of Iraqi security forces killed rose by almost one-third compared with the same time last year, while American troop deaths fell by nearly 40 percent.

Recently, a report was sent to Congress raising concerns about the turnover to Iraqi control of about 100,000 Sunni fighters, called the Sons of Iraq. The fighters, who turned against al-Qaida in Iraq with U.S. backing, are now on the American payroll under the Shiite-led Iraqi government, which has pledged to integrate them into its own forces. The AP reports that the fear is that the transition may move too slowly, and that the fighters will return to the insurgency.

Opinion & Analysis: ‘Remember Iraq?’

Iraq has been lost in the shuffle lately, with the news focused on the proposed bailout of Wall Street, the decline of the stock market, and economic woes, writes Salon’s Gary Kamiya. “Money talks, and incomprehensible and endless wars walk. From a purely financial perspective, that dismissive attitude makes no sense. The Iraq war has already cost almost $700 billion, and as Joseph Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes have argued, its total cost, factoring in huge back-end costs like disability payments, could end up exceeding $3 trillion. As Tom Engelhardt and Chalmers Johnson point out on TomDispatch, the money we’ve poured and are continuing to pour down the bottomless pit of Iraq, to the tune of $10 billion a month, could have bailed us out many times over.”

While none of the candidates have commented specifically on the issue, the question of whether to maintain or reduce troop levels will be an important issue for whoever ends up in the White House. The candidates’ differing stances on the Iraq War—Ill. Sen. Barack Obama has made his opposition to the war a focus of his campaign, and Ariz. Sen. John McCain has advocated a continued U.S. presence in Iraq until the country is capable of self-government—will doubtless play a role.

The larger question of Iraq will be a daunting challenge for the next group of U.S. defense leaders, “who will face the most daunting defense inheritance in generations when he takes the oath of office in January. Not since the Johnson-Nixon handoff 40 years ago has the country faced such a challenging wartime transition. Ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will force the new president to make early and consequential decisions regarding the U.S. approach toward both conflicts as well as the search for al Qaeda’s top leadership in the lawless frontier lands along the Afghan-Pakistani border,” comments the Washington Quarterly.

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