So is the Bush administration finally coming close to experiencing the “Dannatt moment” that I have been waiting for ever since October 2006, when the British Army’s chief of staff, Sir Richard Dannatt, publicly acknowledged that his troops would be much more constructively employed in Afghanistan than in the sinkhole of Iraq?
It seems this moment might be approaching. The NYT’s Steven Lee Myers is reporting in Sunday’s paper that,
- The Bush administration is considering the withdrawal of additional combat forces from Iraq beginning in September, according to administration and military officials, raising the prospect of a far more ambitious plan than expected only months ago.
Such a withdrawal would be a striking reversal from the nadir of the war in 2006 and 2007.
One factor in the consideration is the pressing need for additional American troops in Afghanistan…
Back in fall 2006, it was not only Dannatt who was urging a shift of strategi attention and resources from Iraq to Afghanistan. So were the members of the Baker-Hamilton Group (a.k.a. the ISG.) Who until November 2006 included the present secDef Bob Gates.
But as we know, the Prez never took the ISG’s advice, choosing instead to pour additional troops into Iraq in that episode of fairly meaningless– but very expensive– swagger known as “the surge.”
Myers points out– rightly, imho– that,
- Any troop reductions announced in the heat of the presidential election could blur the sharp differences between the candidates, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, over how long to stay in Iraq.
I am not so sure about the validity of the claim he then makes, that a reduction in troop strength in Iraq occurring during the pre-election period might benefit McCain. But regardless of whether it does or not, it’s the right thing to do. Only it should be carried out much more swiftly and more totally (actually, totally totally) than the very partial redeployments that Myers tells us are currently being considered.
Also, if any serious US troop withdrawal is to be orderly, rather than a humiliating and choatic rout, it needs to be executed within the context of a radically different strategic-political situation… one that involves all the elements I have been writing about quite clearly for more than three years now.
And yes, that would certainly include broad, UN-convened negotiations involving all the US and all of Iraq’s neighbors– including Iran and Syria.
No sign of that yet. So that is the real breakthrough that we all still need to work for.