The NY Times notes that Bush is preparing the way for halting troop withdrawals from Iraq at the 20,000 combat troops already announced. Which would leave more US troops in Iraq post-Surge than there were before it, and leave them there for the forseeable future.
Four months after announcing troop reductions in Iraq, President Bush is now sending signals that the cuts may not continue past this summer, a development likely to infuriate Democrats and renew concerns among military planners about strains on the force.As Libby already noted today, Dubya issued a signing statement saying he would ignore parts of the recent defense bill applying to permanent bases in Iraq too. Andrew Sullivan notes the same development and writes:
Mr. Bush has made no decisions on troop reductions to follow those he announced last September. But White House officials said Mr. Bush had been taking the opportunity, as he did in Monday’s State of the Union address, to prepare Americans for the possibility that, when he leaves office a year from now, the military presence in Iraq will be just as large as it was a year ago, or even slightly larger.
Bush is doing all he can to make the occupation of Iraq a permanent feature of global politics for the rest of our lives. It's his legacy and he's determined to make it the next president's as well.That certainly seems to be the case - and John Mccain, the Republican candidate barring immense ill-fortune on his part - seems to be just fine with the plan.
"But Capt'n, the Army canna tak' it."
Within the Pentagon, senior officers have struggled to balance the demands of the Iraq war against the competing demands to recruit, train and retain a robust and growing ground force. That institutional tension is personified by two of Mr. Bush’s top generals, David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, and George W. Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff. General Petraeus’s mission is to win the war; General Casey must also worry about the health of the whole Army.Fester's our resident wonk on army numbers and sustainability so hopefully he'll update with his opinions later, but in the absence of new dilithium crystals, I don't see how the Pentagon can deliver. It looks to me very like Republican plans will break the US Army - so much for being strong on national security.
...What a continuing commitment of 15 brigades — more than 130,000 troops — would mean for the Army as a whole is said to be a major concern of General Casey, among others on the joint staff.