Lots More Troops, Maybe

A very happy late Tuesday evening everyone. Antiwar.com, in a piece linked from the San Francisco Chronicle website, is reporting that the Bush administration’s deployment orders (and the Pentagon’s extension of deployments) of U.S. forces to Iraq will nearly double the number of U.S. combat brigades in Iraq by Christmas of this year in what the Chronicle is calling a “second surge”:

The little-noticed second surge, designed to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq, is being executed by sending more combat brigades and extending tours of duty for troops already there.

The actions could boost the number of combat soldiers from 52,500 in early January to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year if the Pentagon overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades.

Separately, when additional support troops are included in this second troop increase, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 — a record-high number — by the end of the year.

The numbers were arrived at by an analysis of deployment orders by Hearst Newspapers.

“It doesn’t surprise me that they’re not talking about it,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, a former U.S. commander of NATO troops in Bosnia, referring to the Bush administration. “I think they would be very happy not to have any more attention paid to this.”

The first surge was prominently announced by President Bush in a nationally televised address on Jan. 10, when he ordered five more combat brigades to join 15 brigades already in Iraq.

The buildup was designed to give commanders the 20 combat brigades Pentagon planners said were needed to provide security in Baghdad and western Anbar province.

Since then, the Pentagon has extended combat tours for units in Iraq from 12 months to 15 months and announced the deployment of additional brigades.

Taken together, the steps could put elements of as many as 28 combat brigades in Iraq by Christmas, according the deployment orders examined by Hearst Newspapers.

Maybe. but I think this should make hash any notion that September is some kind of drop dead date for the American military presence in Iraq, or even a time of reckoning to determine whether or not the Iraqi government continues to be worth fighting for.

That said, this might be buildup akin to the joke made in the “Watergate Comedy Hour” — “When I became your president, there were a half-a-million American troops in South Vietnam,” said the Nixon character (I’m not sure who played who, but the LP, which I used to have, was made by Jack Burns and Avery Schreiber). “Now, they are all in Cambodia.” It may be the Bush does indeed plan to have American troops withdraw from Iraq — through Iran.