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December 23, 2005
Rumsfeld: Starting The Stand-Down

Donald Rumsfeld traveled to Fallujah to address the American troops now holding the once-notorious insurgent stromghold, proclaiming enough progress had been made that the baseline American deployment to Iraq would decrease to 15 brigades, rather than the 17 brigades delpoyed prior to the increased election security details:

Just days after Iraq's elections, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Friday announced the first of what is likely to be a series of U.S. combat troop drawdowns in Iraq in 2006.

Rumsfeld, addressing U.S. troops at this former insurgent stronghold, said President Bush has authorized new cuts below the 138,000 level that has prevailed for most of this year.

Rumsfeld did not reveal the exact size of the troop cut, but Pentagon officials have said it could be as much as 7,000 combat troops. The Pentagon has not announced a timetable for troop reductions, but indications are that the force could be cut significantly by the end of 2006.

As the Iraqis stand up, we have always maintained we would stand down. The performance of the Iraqi troops during the election and its run-up have given the Pentagon a new sense of confidence in the training of its most experienced troops, confidence shown in the dozen or more transfers of military bases in Iraq to Iraqi control. That process began this summer, but likely will speed up this spring and summer as more trained security and Army troops come on line. Rather than withdraw, the US will likely keep regular Army units in bases farther out from the urban areas and allow National Guard units to either come home or not deploy at all to Iraq.

By this time next year, even with some sporadic violence, we can expect to see around 80,000 American troops providing mostly training and logistical support to an active force of about 250,000 Level 1 and Level 2 Iraqi troops. We will want to maintain some military presence there as a tripwire for the Iranians and the Syrians to consider in their designs on Iraqi sovereignty, and the new Iraqi government will want us close at hand to ensure their continued survival. What we will no longer provide is police action in cities such as Fallujah or Ramadi.

This allows us to ensure the survival of the Iraqi democracy and access to the entire Southeast Asian area, giving us the flexibility to pursue terrorists throughout the region. It resembles the same effort we made in stationing our troops in Europe and Japan to make our stand against the Communists, and it's just as important.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 23, 2005 6:59 AM

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