Tuesday, October 13, 2009
General Lays Out Pace of Iraq Pullout
New York Times By ROD NORDLAND BAGHDAD — By the end of October, American troop strength in Iraq will be 120,000, a decrease of 23,000 since January, the top United States military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, said Monday. The next big reduction will not come until well after the national elections in January, he added. General Lanza referred repeatedly to a “responsible drawdown.” It was his first full-scale news conference since May, when he addressed reporters in advance of Iraqi security forces’ taking the lead in security operations on June 30. “I really think the elections will be a point of departure by which we look at an assessment of true drawdown and really start moving our numbers from, let’s say, somewhere between 120,000 and 110,000 by the election, and then getting at that 50,000 by August 2010,” he said Monday. The United States has pledged to remove all combat troops from Iraq by next August, leaving 50,000 troops to advise and support the Iraqis. General Lanza released statistics showing a large reduction in war-related violence of all types since June 30, with civilian and military deaths down by 80 to 90 percent compared with the same period in 2008. There has not been as great a reduction in United States troop forces, however, despite their withdrawal from combat duties in the cities. “The key to us is to be flexible in our drawdown,” General Lanza said. “We want to have the right capability to support the government of Iraq as a sovereign partner.” He added, “I would envision sometime after the election, perhaps in 30 to 60 days, there would be another decision point based on another assessment of the security environment, and we would then look at moving more forces out of the country.” Troops remaining after August 2010 would be focused on training missions, with the goal of leaving Iraq entirely by the end of 2011. Already, the first so-called advise and assist brigade, devoted exclusively to training Iraqi troops, has arrived in Anbar Province, he said. That is the First Brigade of the army’s 82nd Airborne Division. It will eventually be joined by five more such brigades. Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces, including the police and the army, have reached a total of 663,000 members. The increase has made it possible for the police to take over security duties in many cities from the United States and the Iraqi militaries, General Lanza said. Iraq’s budget provides for security forces totaling 720,000, including 253,002 in the military.