How do yu know if you have completed your journey unless you know where you are going? One of the things that I have noticed that is not being discussed in all of the noise about immediate withdrawl, is what is the actual vision of what we are trying to accomplish there, and how will we know when we have accomplished it.
I have written in the past about potential problems of leaving too early. But what is that we would want if we had the capability to define and implement our goals?
So, here is a scenario to consider. After December 15th, a new Iraqi parliament is elected, and Bush and the allies start to negotiate our withdrawl from Iraq. The new Iraqi government will have a significant amount of Shias who may have some interest in aligning their interests with Iran, but as long as Al Sistani wants to keep his distance from Iran, which he has maintained for quite some time, they will not allow Iraq to become a vassal to Iran.
The Iraqi "insurgency" starts to wind down, with the assumption of authority by an independent Iraqi government. Foreign fighters start to slow down in migrating there because they are getting less support. Zarqawi, continues to play dead, albeit with a new moniker in order to camoflage his past excesses, but he will continue to target the Shias, with little effect except to piss off all of the Iraqis no matter what their religious affiliation.
The new Iraqi government wants to be able to demonstrate their independence from us, and insists on the bulk of the forces be wthdrawn by the end of 2006. We agree, but we want to maintain a force of one heavy armored division to assist the new Iraqi army if need be, This would probably be split into 3 areas, with a brigade equivalent in each base, probably somewhere in the Anbar province, and one aviation brigade to supply helicopter lift and Apache Quick Reaction Forces to support Iraqi forces. We would probably also want to have the equivalent of a Special Forces Group (around 1500 men) to assist in the final training of the Iraqi army, although that may be turned over to civilian contractors, just to keep the troop numbers down.
In addition to the one division equivalent, we would probably also want to keep a POMCUS (Preposition of Material Configured to Unit Sets) of another division in the area, so that we could also flow in troops without having to move the equipment to the theater.
The American forces would continue to train in the open desert, away from population areas, but would be available to assist the Iraqi Army on an as needed basis, while at the same time partnering with newer Iraqi battalions as they come out of training.
We would probably also need to have at least one air base, predominantly supporting A-10s which would also be used in support of the Iraqi army and work with training up a new Iraqi air force.
Money for training the new Iraqi forces is going to come from us for the next 2-3 years, since if we are paying for it, we want to be able to have some control over how it is spent. Training will need to continue developing the junior leadership of the NCOs and LTs to LTCs who will be doing the bulk of the self defense. We want to emphasize the allegiance to the Iraqi people over the government, with self discipline and integrity being something that is non-negotiable.
The end result will be around 20,000 American troops in Iraq, which would be about an 80% reduction, which will help to stabilize the government, train the military, and be able to respond to any terrorist threats that are beyond the Iraqi army's immediate capability.
So, that is my theory, anyone else?