27 September 2005

What Coalition?

The United Kingdom will begin withdrawing troops from Iraq starting in May. Major coalition partners, like Italy and Spain, have already left or are on their way out. Many smaller members of the coalition are already gone. But, as the #2 source of troops in Iraq, the U.K.'s planned withdrawal has a far more significant impact.

Add to that the pressure of unmet recruiting targets for the Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserves, and the nearly exhausted ability of the President to tap national guard and reserve resources without further Congressional authorization, and a situation that seems to be heating up in the British supervised South of the nation, and you have a real bind for the administration in Iraq on the horizon. The administration has no exit strategy. Increasingly, Bush is looking like the last guy left at a restaurant, when all his friends have already left, stuck with the bill.

The fact that parliamentary elections have been held in Afghanistan and that the President of Afghanistan, Hamed Karzi is starting to make discontented noises about the U.S. presence in the country resulting in dead Afghani civilians, while al-Queda training bases in Pakistan are ignored, may allow the administration to shift some troops from Afghanistan to Iraq, as may efforts to draw down troops in Germany and South Korea, and to reorganize the Army to shift soldiers to specialties in greater demand. But, the President does not have the political clout he needs to call for a draft, or to break existing limitations on Guard and Reserve deployments. Thus, it is only a matter of time, and we are talking around the time of the 2006 elections here, before a draw down of U.S. forces, regardless of the consequences, becomes administration policy. This will happen not because the administration favors withdrawal of troops from Iraq, but because it has no other choice. With an impending British withdrawal, this may happen sooner rather than later.

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