US Military Planning Iraq “Post-Occupation” to Last “for Years”

Brian Zick

Thomas Ricks for WaPo reports: BAGHDAD -- U.S. military officials here are increasingly envisioning a "post-occupation" troop presence in Iraq that neither maintains current levels nor leads to a complete pullout, but aims for a smaller, longer-term force that would remain in the country for years. (…) One of the guiding principles, according to two officials here, is that the United States should leave Iraq more intelligently than it entered. Military officials, many of whom would be interviewed only on the condition of anonymity, say they are now assessing conditions more realistically, rejecting the "steady progress" mantra of their predecessors and recognizing that short-term political reconciliation in Iraq is unlikely. A reduction of troops, some officials argue, would demonstrate to anti-American factions that the occupation will not last forever while reassuring Iraqi allies that the United States does not intend to abandon the country. (…) Even as they focus on the realities in Iraq, officials here are also keeping an eye on Washington politics. Despite the talk in the U.S. capital that Petraeus has only until September to stabilize the situation in Iraq, some officers here are quietly suggesting that they really may have until Jan. 20, 2009 -- when President Bush leaves office -- to put the smaller, revised force in place. They doubt that Bush will pull the plug on the war or that Congress will ultimately force his hand.

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