Monday, September 10, 2007

Planning the Withdraw

Lawrence Korb and Max Bergman discuss withdraw from Iraq in the Boston Globe:

A lengthy withdrawal, on the other hand, would play it by the book. The roughly 75 forward-operating bases scattered around Iraq would be meticulously shut down. Every piece of nonessential equipment from kitchen supplies to latrines would be dealt with according to military regulation. In order not to overload Kuwaiti ports and to meet stringent requirements of the Department of Agriculture - which requires each piece of equipment to be power-washed and shrink-wrapped before being transported to the United States - at most only about one combat brigade per month, roughly 3,500 troops, would leave Iraq through "Route Tampa," the one major road connecting central Iraq to Kuwait.

While such a lengthy and meticulous drawdown is often portrayed as the most "responsible" course, this plan would end up putting US forces in danger for the sake of extracting nonessential equipment. This is not just a morally dubious proposition, but one that hardly seems cost effective. The costs of maintaining US forces in Iraq - more than $10 billion per month - and the costs entailed in shipping nonessential equipment back to the United States are considerable.

But a safe and responsible withdrawal of US forces can be completed over a period of 10-12 months if we prioritize getting our troops to Kuwait, and if we seek to extract just critical and sensitive equipment.

This scenario looks at withdraw from a strictly logistic and tactical point of view and makes no mention of efforts to offer remove Iraqis and their families who have assisted American troops during the occupation/reconstruction (take your pick) efforts. I don't hear a whole lot about those people during conversations about facilitating withdraw and their addition to any exit strategy changes the equation dramatically.

If it can take roughly a year to get 170,000 troops and their equipment out of Iraq -- and I have the feeling like this time frame might be more optimal than practical -- then how long will it take to remove the 150,000+ Iraqis who have worked with the CPA, the military, or others with American ties? What about their families? That number could rise to as many as 500,000 Iraqis who may have a justifiable reason for leaving the country when we do.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves planning for a withdraw we should probably come to an understanding of the human inventory we expect to take back with us.

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