Washington: Iraqi hand wringing on whether to keep American troops in country could force U.S. military commanders to take on the difficult task of readjusting the massive wave of men and materiel currently flowing out of Iraq.
American forces have already “stepped over” nearly 60 percent of DOD weapons and equipment to Iraqi security forces, and closed a total of 48 U.S. installations in country, Maj. Gen. Thomas Richardson, head of logistics for U.S. Forces Iraq, said today.
That kind of momentum will be extremely difficult to reverse, if the Iraqis end up asking for a continued American military presence past the new year, Richardson said.
“This is a matter of physics,” he said. “As we get further along the path of what we do, it gets harder and harder in that process [to reverse]. There is a momentum. . . and as time goes on, it gets much harder for us.”
Pentagon officials have said contingency plans are in place, should the Iraqis want to keep a U.S. military contingent in country.
But the government of Nouri al-Maliki has already missed an informal July 31 deadline to make that decision, and has only begun talks with the United States on what that remaining force may look like.
But until those talks wrap up, Richardson said his troops will continue with the “deliberate process” of getting American troops out of Iraq.
“Right now we are driving at the current plan, which is going to zero [troops], based on the agreements we currently have,” he said.
Roughly $247 million in weapons and equipment have been handed over to the Iraqis since American forces began drawing down last September. In addition to the 48 U.S. installations that have already been shuttered, Richardson plans to close seven more by the end of this month.
U.S. forces have delivered up-armored Humvees, .50 caliber heavy machine guns and other pieces of communications equipment to the Iraqis.
American forces have also handed over kits known as a “FOB in a box” which includes everything — from blast walls to air conditioners — needed to stand up a forward operating base.
Richardson’s unit has also been shipping U.S. equipment from Iraq to other warzones in the region, to support ongoing operations there, he said.
Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, as well as fire trucks and communications equipment have all made their way from Iraq to Afghanistan, to fill urgent operational needs in theater, Richardson said.
U.S. forces in Bahrain and Djibouti have also gotten shipments of equipment used in Iraq, he added.
The flow of U.S. men and materiel will continue until “we know what the end state is,” Richardson said. Until then, he noted, American forces in country will remain “on a glide path to zero.”