10 years is a long time. But that’s how long Army chief of staff Gen. George Casey is planning for when thinking about troops staying in Iraq, and even in Afghanistan. But why the planning when a policy for withdrawal from Iraq is already in place? After all, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the US and Iraq has all US combat troops leaving Iraqi cities by June, and all US troops out by the end of 2011. Iraqis pushed hard for the inclusion of a timeline in the SOFA. President Obama has said he will withdraw all US combat troops from Iraq by August 2010, with all troops out by the SOFA deadline of the end of 2011.
The AP reports on Casey’s remarks given at a briefing for journalists and policy analysts:
Casey would not specify how many combat units would be split between Iraq and Afghanistan. He said U.S. ground commander Gen. Ray Odierno is leading a study to determine how far U.S. forces could be cut back in Iraq and still be effective. Casey said his comments about the long war in Iraq were not meant to conflict with administration policies….
Casey said several times that he wasn’t the person making policy, but the military was preparing to have a fighting force deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan for years to come. Casey said his planning envisions 10 combat brigades plus command and support forces committed to the two wars.
When asked whether the Army had any measurement for knowing how big it should be, Casey responded, “How about the reality scenario?”
This scenario, he said, must take into account that “we’re going to have 10 Army and Marine units deployed for a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
In our meetings with Congressional offices, we have repeatedly emphasized the need to adhere to a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, and talked about a withdrawal on a faster pace than the one proposed by the president. We’ve also talked about the danger of leaving behind a counterproductive residual force of up to 50,000 troops as outlined by President Obama.