Hugh Hewitt

You don't often hear any Congressmen or Senators demanding answers on how long the duration or how great the number of troops will be required in Kosovo, South Korea, or Germany.

But you hear little other than those questions when the subject of Iraq comes up.

There's isn't much discussion of extracting U.S. troops from Qatar or Kuwait, but hardly a day goes by when one or more of the Democrats who are running to replace George W. Bush in the Oval office don't lay out some plan on how to get the troops "home."  (Of course those plans do not and cannot guarantee that the troops summoned back from Iraq won't be sent off to Okinawa or Djibouti --it is a global military, and its missions are many and spread across the continents.)

The reality is that politicians demand that the troops be withdrawn from Iraq because that withdrawal will inflict a political defeat on the Administration.  If the Army and marines are obliged to retreat, Democrats reason, there will be no way for the GOP to portray the invasion of Iraq as a sound decision.  They will claim their votes for war were manipulated by intentionally deceptive intelligence, and they will rely on the MSM to avoid calling attention to inconvenient speeches made and op-eds written back in late 2002 and 2003.

Responsible analysts know that that not only are American troops going to be stationed in Iraq for many years to come, but that talk of withdrawal exposes those troops to increased risk of attack as al Qaeda in Iraq redoubles its efforts to drive America from the country in response to American casualties.  Numerous observers expect an Arab version of the Tet offensive before General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker make their reports on the surge in mid-September in an effort to rekindle the anti-war hysteria of May and June, a hysteria that has been greatly dampened by the rising tide of good news from Baghdad and al-Anbar province.

So for how long and with how many troops will America remain in Iraq.  Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Max Boot offered one estimate in the new issue of Commentary Magazine:

The strain on U.S. forces, especially the army, is great. Nevertheless, the current force level can be maintained through at least the spring of next year. Thereafter, we could begin to draw down troops at the rate of one brigade a month until August, when we would be down to a pre-surge force of 15 Brigade Combat Teams or about 140,000 troops. This, assuming we stick with the current schedule of 15-month tours of duty, could then be maintained through 2009, with adjustments up or down at the recommendation of General Petraeus.
I asked General Jack Keane (U.S. Army, ret) about Boot's estimates.  "Do you agree with that assessment, General Keane?," I asked. "Yeah, I absolutely do," he replied.   "Is that what you think is going to happen," I followed up. "I do believe that’s what’s going to happen," confirmed Keane.

I posed the same sort of question to AEI's Fred Kagan, who along with General Keane was an architect of the surge strategy, and who, like Kaene, has recently returned from a tour of the battle lines in Iraq.

"Max Boot says we’ve got to be prepared to be there well into 2009 with 140,000 troops, I asked in an interview on August 15. "Do you agree with that, Fred Kagan?"

"I can’t give you a troop number, but we need to be prepared to be there with a very substantial force, certainly through 2009, absolutely," he replied.

These are the real numbers, delivered up by serious analysts who have all been to Iraq in recent months and carried on extensive conversations with General Petraeus and his senior commanders.

This is what it is going to take in terms of numbers and time to keep the momentum on the side of the new Iraq and against genocide and regional upheaval.

This is what it is going to take to continue the crushing of al Qaeda in Iraq and the cabining of radical Shia influences.

The sooner the Democratic candidates begin to act responsibly towards these objective needs, the sooner will al Qaeda realize it cannot win a political victory even as it it is handed military defeat after military defeat.

The sooner the left gets behind the idea of staying as long as we need to stay, the sooner significant troop draw-downs will begin.


Hugh Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt is host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show. Hugh Hewitt's new book is The War On The West.