It will be interesting to see how this breaking news is played. Why? Here’s the goods:
The Pentagon has tentative plans to halt the scheduled deployment of two brigades to Iraq and instead send in smaller teams to support and train Iraqi forces in what could be an early step toward an eventual drawdown of U.S. forces, defense officials said Wednesday.
Details are still under discussion, and it would largely depend on the military and political conditions there after the parliamentary elections next week, the officials said.
The two officials, who did not want to be identified because the plans have not been finalized, said a third brigade, initially scheduled to go to Afghanistan, may also stay home. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is preparing to announce the plan after the Iraq election Dec. 15, if all goes well, they said.
This info could be used in all sorts of ways for all sorts of things by all sorts of people, no? Does this mean that things are going a lot better in Iraq? Does this mean that Rep. Murtha was right all along? Does this mean that Bush is just pandering to voters who would like to see more troops home before the elections next fall? Does this mean we’re winning? Does this mean we’re losing?
In fact, does this mean anything? Anything at all?
Let’s read a bit farther:
Under the plan, deployment of the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, based at Fort Riley, Kan., would be canceled. Instead, for the first time, portions of the brigade would be divided into 10- or 11-member transition teams to work with Iraqi security forces.
The second unit that would not deploy to Iraq is the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, now in Kuwait and usually based in Germany. Under the plan, up to two-thirds of the brigade would return to Germany; the rest would stay in Kuwait.
Wow. That’s quite something, no?
Well, no. It isn’t.
In addition, officers said, two combat brigades that had been slated to move into Iraq to replace units coming out are now expected to be held back. One of those units — a brigade of the 1st Armored Division based in Germany — will probably be positioned in Kuwait. The other unit — a brigade of the 1st Infantry Division — will probably remain at its home base of Fort Riley, Kan., the officers said.
So neither of these brigades was “bound for Iraq” at that point, according to reports. (One, even if fully deployed, wasn’t going to Iraq anyway, though I’m willing to let that one slide as troops in Kuwait are obviously “on call” for trouble to the north.)
Additionally, the Department of Defense released a partial list of major units headed for Iraq in the next rotations on November 8th. Neither of these brigades was on that list. A month ago it was public knowledge, available to anyone anywhere and, presumably, an important source of information for those writing about troop levels in Iraq.
I’m wondering if these “sources” the press keeps going on about are some guys in the Pentagon mail room reading off a list tacked to the bulletin board next to the copy machine.
I hadn’t seen anything other than speculation about the idea to send these smaller teams in, though. That’s interesting. As long as the source isn’t the cleaning lady reading a scribbled Post-It note on some Colonel’s computer monitor…