According to a new report by IPS reporter Gareth Porter, the Obama administration is planning to keep several combat brigades in Iraq past his August 2010 deadline. Rather than withdraw the troops, the military will simply rename the brigades and add to them.
“A spokesman for Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates, Lt. Col. Patrick S. Ryder, told IPS Tuesday that ‘several advisory and assistance brigades’ would be part of a U.S. command in Iraq that will be ‘re-designated’ as a ‘transition force headquarters’ after August 2010.
But the ‘advisory and assistance brigades’ to remain in Iraq after that date will in fact be the same as BCTs, except for the addition of a few dozen officers who would carry out the advice and assistance missions, according to military officials involved in the planning process.
Gates has hinted that the withdrawal of combat brigades will be accomplished through an administrative sleight of hand rather than by actually withdrawing all the combat brigade teams. Appearing on Meet the Press Mar. 1, Gates said the ‘transition force’ would have ‘a very different kind of mission’, and that the units remaining in Iraq ‘will be characterised differently’.
‘They will be called advisory and assistance brigades,’ said Gates. ‘They won’t be called combat brigades.'”
Porter goes on to write that the brigades will retain offensive capabilities:
“…the U.S. Army has already been developing the outlines of the BESO (Brigades Enhanced for Stability Operations) for the past few months. The only change to the existing BCT (Brigade Combat Team) structure that is being planned is the addition of advisory and assistance skills rather than any reduction in its combat power. The BCT is organised around two or three battalions of motorized infantry but also includes all the support elements, including its own artillery support, needed to sustain the full spectrum of military operations.”
According to Porter, this plan is well-liked by the military which has been reluctant to commit to withdrawing “combat” troops from Iraq. Porter also writes that Obama is well aware of how the military intends to skirt around his promise to withdraw combat troops from the country.