"Phased Withdrawal"... A New Plan?
My good friend Rob has a post up about the current discussion over a "phased withdrawal" from Iraq. Part of Rob's post:
"Seriously, it looks like the campaign to get out of Iraq is now going to start spinning at the White House. All of a sudden the Iraqi forces will be proclaimed "ready" and we'll finally start pulling out. Not necessarily because it's the right thing, but because it's the politically right thing...
"...Murtha had a plan...something Bush has been lacking since invading and overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Was it a good plan? Maybe...maybe not.
"I personally have decided on what I think is a good plan:
1. Set an end date. Say, 1 January 2007. By that date we will be out of Iraq.
2. Start turning over the bulk of missions to the Iraqi security forces. From now on the major offensives belong to them.
3. Start reducing troop levels immediately following the upcoming Iraqi elections."
I responded thusly to his post in the comments (with minimal editing for clarity):
"Amazingly, the overriding OPLAN I saw at CENTCOM in 2003, which they're still following (as far as I know, with modifications of dates) also envisioned a phased withdrawal. Since no one but the wackiest moonbats has ever said we planned to be there forever ("14 permanent bases!") I'm not sure how the Administration is changing their plan. Just because they didn't announce the timing several months in advance isn't evidence of them changing their minds."
[Note on classification: While this website seems to be claiming that even the existence of OPLAN 1003V, the Iraq War operational plan, is some big secret, it's not really. The website says that "(i)ts existence was revealed in late September 2004, by a classified Pentagon document leaked to the London Evening Standard newspaper"; apparently unknown to the people at the "Center for Media and Democracy", its existence was also "revealed" earlier by Gen. Tommy Franks in his biography, "American Soldier", which was published in August 2004 (pp. 385 and 417 for those who have the hardcover edition). I don't think that saying it included a plan for eventual withdrawal is that big a secret.]
The big problem with "setting a date" well in advance is it gives the enemy a better opportunity to plan. We want to avoid what happened when Israel pulled out of Lebanon in 2000; Hizbullah was able to ramp up their attacks, and then claim that they "forced" the occupiers out, winning propaganda points on the "Arab street". From the linked article:
"Even as they quit their bases, the Israelis are coming under ferocious mortar, missile and artillery bombardment by Hezbollah, or Party of God, the militant Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim guerrillas who have outlasted the Israeli army and disheartened the Israeli public by inflicting a steady toll of casualties on Israeli troops.
"While Israel officially portrays its pullout as the end of a tragedy and a reasoned strategic shift, Hezbollah says it is determined to demonstrate that the Israelis are fleeing Lebanese territory under fire and are suffering a humiliating military defeat."
We've never planned on staying in Iraq forever; "as the Iraqi Army stands up, we'll stand down" has always been the plan. Anyone "in the know" (i.e. Congressmen and Senators) who says otherwise is looking to score cheap political points.
Update 2226 28 Nov: Via Instapundit, a link-filled article at QandO that shows that the "new" plan being proposed by the Democrats looks a lot like what's been the Administration's plan all along.