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August 15, 2007
Will Petreaus Call For a 'Pullback?'
The Los Angeles Times is telling us this morning that in his report to be given next month before Congress, Iraq Commander General David Petreaus will recommend a "pullback" of US forces from areas that have been sufficiently cleared of terrorists:
Intent on demonstrating progress in Iraq, the top U.S. general there is expected by Bush administration officials to recommend removing American troops soon from several areas where commanders believe security has improved, possibly including Al Anbar province. That last is important to keep in mind. The troops will be redeployed to other areas where they would be needed. Certainly Petreaus has his eye on the south, especially around Basra where rival Shia militias are engaged in a low level civil war to establish their dominance in the area. Many of those militias are offshoots of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's JAM force (Jaish Al Mahdi) and are hostile to Americans. Others belong to the Badr Organization who might be expected to cooperate with American forces. Establishing control in the south while breaking the power of some of the Shia militias will help bring peace to Iraq.
According to the officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus is expected to propose the partial pullback in his September status report to Congress, when both the war's critics and supporters plan to reassess its course. Administration officials who support the current troop levels hope Petraeus' recommendations will persuade Congress to reject pressure for a major U.S. withdrawal.
The expected recommendation would authorize U.S. commanders to withdraw troops from places that have become less violent and turn over security responsibilities to Iraqi forces.
But it does not necessarily follow that Petraeus would call for reducing the overall number of troops in the country. Instead, he could move them to another hot spot, or use them to create a reserve force to counter any rise in violence.
Will Congress buy in? Recent statements by Democratic members of Congress would seem to indicate that they may be willing to grant Petreaus more time to bring the violence in Iraq down even further. But nothing is certain at this point and both sides are on edge as the September deadline for the general's report approaches.