Officers involved in preparation of Petraeus's testimony before Congress next week say he will introduce the possibility of withdrawals beyond January 2008 that will bring the troop count down to 130,000, where it was before the "surge" began in January 2007. In the short term, according to David E. Sanger and David S. Cloud of the New York Times, "senior administration and military officials" say that Petraeus "could accept the pullback of 4,000 troops beginning in January, in part to assuage critics in Congress."
There's something else interesting: Reporters for a newspaper like the New York Times using language that says a four-star general can "accept" the desires of Congress, as if he has a choice in the matter. Then again, maybe these days he does have a choice in whether or not he accepts a mandate from our national legislature.
Here's something else interesting: A Friday morning story from the Associated Press carried the news of seven more U.S. troop fatalities in Iraq, four of whom were Marines killed during fighting in Anbar province, the area touted by Petraeus and others as the crown jewel of the surge's "success" at establishing enhanced security in Iraq.
The even more interesting part of the AP story, though, comes at the very end:
U.S. troop levels -- currently at a record 168,000 -- are expected to hit a high of 172,000 in the coming weeks, the Pentagon said Thursday.
How about them bad apples? No wonder Petraeus is willing to accept a "pullback" of 4,000 troops in January--their replacements will already be in theater. It's less wonder still that he's magnanimous enough to concede to a further "reduction" to the base number of 130,000 by spring of 2008, which from the beginning was as long as senior-most Pentagon officials said the surge could last.
So, what I see happening next week when Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iran Ryan Crocker bring their medicine show to Capital Hill is a promise of a drawdown that isn't a withdrawal in exchange for an extra $50 billion to keep the surge that isn't an escalation going until it was scheduled to end before it even started. And oh, the $50 billion will go on top of the $ 9 trillion national credit card balance because we wouldn't want to burden the wealthy with new taxes that look like the old taxes they used to pay before their pal Dubya started his expensive war in Iraq.
It should all be, as Arte Johnson used to say on the 60s comedy show Rowan and Martin's Laugh In, …
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword, ePluribus and Military.com. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books, ISBN: 9781601640192) will be available March 1, 2008.