30,000 Troop Drawdown in Iraq? Don’t Believe the Headfake

The headline from the Rumsfeld/Rice trip to Baghdad today is that the United States might pull out 30,000 troops this year. There’s actually nothing new in this statement. Since last year, top Bush administration officials and generals in the field have been saying that significant withdrawals of US troops were likely to occur in 2006.

As many have learned the hard way, it is more important to watch what the Bush administration does rather than believe what it says. There are troubling signs that the Bush administration wants to make the U.S. presence permanent in Iraq. According to Newsweek, the Bush administration is putting forward plans to beef up military installations in Iraq:

– The Bush administration is asking for more than $1.1 billion for new military construction in Iraq – roughly double what it plans to spend in Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE combined.

Nellis Balad Air Force Base in Northern Iraq is second only to London’s Heathrow airport with 27,500 landings and takeoffs a month;

– The $592 million new US Embassy in Baghdad rivals the Vatican City in size (US embassy is 104 acres, about 80 football fields; Vatican City is 109 acres).

The main problem is these steps only feed perceptions of occupation that fuel terrorist attacks and give America’s terrorist enemies the perfect recruitment tool — without helping advance U.S. interests in the Gulf region.

The United States need to take back control of its national security and send a clear message to Iraqi leaders that they need to strike the power-sharing deals to stabilize the country — as proposed in American Progress’s strategic redeployment plan.

Brian Katulis