On the face of it, this sort of news seems like a big deal:
The top U.S. commander in Iraq has submitted a plan to the Pentagon for withdrawing troops in Iraq, according to a senior defense official.
Gen. George Casey submitted the plan to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It includes numerous options and recommends that brigades — usually made up of about 2,000 soldiers each — begin pulling out of Iraq early next year.
It’s not. If you asked the right person and greased the right wheels you could skim through Pentagon plans to invade Great Britian, defend Florida from a Cuban invasion and safeguard the Earth against an attack from outer space. The Pentagon lays down contingency plans for practically everything.
The neocons might have imagined that Chalabi-ruled Iraq would become a permanent staging base for mischief throughout central Asia, and maybe I’m giving ‘everybody else’ too much credit here, but it seems as though the rest of America understood that we would fight our war and go home. The ten-million-dollar question being when.
The last paragraph tells the story:
The plan, which would withdraw a limited amount of troops during 2006, requires that a host of milestones be reached before troops are withdrawn.
Top Pentagon officials have repeatedly discussed some of those milestones: Iraqi troops must demonstrate that they can handle security without U.S. help; the country’s political process must be strong; and reconstruction and economic conditions must show signs of stability.
Question: how is this any different from where we were two years ago? We understood from the beginning that the Iraqis would work out their self-governance thing and then we’d go home. Just in case that understanding didn’t make it all the way to the top al-Sistani made it perfectly clear that we would be shown the door as soon as it was safe for us to leave. So to me this planning doesn’t mean much. Of course we’re planning for a withdrawal. If no such plans existed, then that would be news.
A better question is about those benchmarks. Are they realistic? If so, then super. If not then General Casey’s planning means about as much as William Wallace’s famous terms of surrender.