In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee this month, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace uttered a “carefully worded” statement revealing that the Pentagon had no plans to fully withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq if legislation passes Congress mandating troop redeployment:
PACE: Sir, we have published no orders directing the planning for the overall withdrawal of forces. We do have ongoing replacements of forces, and we do change the size of the force over time so that that system is available to either plus-up or draw down, but we have published no orders saying come up with a complete plan for total drawdown.
NPR investigated Pace’s statements and found one scenario being considered within the Pentagon would maintain a strong U.S. military presence in Iraq for several decades into the future.
This so-called “lily pad” strategy entails keeping a “series of military installations around Iraq,” with tens of thousands of U.S. troops remaining in the country for as long as a few decades:
[W]hat it essentially envisions is a series of military installations around Iraq, maybe five or six of them, a total of maybe 30-40 thousand U.S. troops in Iraq for a long period of time, lasting, maybe a few decades. And the idea is that these bases will be somewhat hermetically sealed, that U.S. military forces won’t be leaving them, they won’t be conducting presence patrols and the patrols they conduct now. Ground convoys won’t be driving into them.
Airplanes will be essentially landing in to deliver supplies and these sort of lily pads will be in various strategic areas in Iraq … And that will enable the U.S. military to maintain a presence in the country, perhaps…for a few decades.
The Pentagon’s goal with the lily pads is to preserve U.S. interests in Iraq for years to come “in the event that Congress or the administration pushes this [withdrawal plan] forward.” As NPR details, those interests are at least three-fold: 1) Training Iraq forces, 2) Preserving economic interests, as “Iraq obviously [sits] on the second largest reserve of oil in the world,” and 3) Providing a U.S. military “presence” to deter Iran and Turkey from “getting involved” after withdrawal.
While 60 percent of Americans are calling for a withdrawal of the U.S. from Iraq, the Pentagon is instead making preparations for an unending occupying presence.