Army chief says U.S. could be in Iraq after 2012
Obama has pledged to get most U.S. troops out of Iraq by 2012, in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement, but the army chief of staff says the military is planning to keep troops in Iraq for a decade:
WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States could have fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade, the top Army officer said, even though a signed agreement requires all U.S. forces to be out of Iraq by 2012.
Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff, said Tuesday his planning envisions combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade as part of a sustained U.S. commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism in the Middle East.
"Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction," Casey said. "They fundamentally will change how the Army works." [AP]
(The AP article isn't quite right. The SOFA allows for significant numbers of U.S. troops to stay on in an "advisory capacity" after the official deadline.)
Now, just because the military has a plan for something doesn't mean that outcome is considered especially likely. They have staffs of experts who do nothing but plan for all kinds of far-fetched scenarios, just in case. But Casey's talking as if he actually expects the U.S. to be in Iraq for another decade:
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?"
The reality 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."
Casey doesn't make the policy. So, ultimately, this is just one person's prediction--or one person's preferred outcome, as the case may be.
Casey's remarks are more evidence that we shouldn't just assume that the occupation of Iraq will end on the timetable we've been lead to expect, SOFA or no SOFA.