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May 27, 2009

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.


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RE The SOFA allows for significant numbers of U.S. troops to stay on in an "advisory capacity" after the official deadline.

The Iraqi Army was a powerful force in the region for decades.

But now we're asked to believe that the US can't leave, because the Iraqis need US advice on how to run an army.

Is there any limitation about the number of advisors?

Well, if there's no plan on staying, why spend all that money on "enduring bases"?

Also, weren't similar assurances made about US withdrawal from the Philippines, over 100 years ago? And aren't US troops still there? Does the US ever really leave anywhere?

Dunc: I looked briefly on Wikipedia, and it doesn't mention any post-independence American presence in the Philippines. Even if there is one, there's a difference between an occupation like in South Vietnam or Iraq, and long-term bases like in Japan and Germany. It's entirely possible the US military is fantasizing about staying in Iraq in the same capacity as in Germany.

Casey should be cashiered, for sheer idiocy. If the US isn't out of Iraq by 2012, expect the war to ramp up again: we will get *kicked* out. Global trends are pushing in the "wrong direction" for Mr. Casey.

We could probably maintain some sort of stupid overseas base like Guantanamo, as long as our military never left the compound. But that would just be a recipe for wasting money.

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