Last January, when President Bush ordered some 30,000 additional troops to Iraq to shock-inject U.S. forces into Baghdad and the surrounding environs, there were 132,000 US. troops stationed there. Now, with the last of the surge campaign troops set to leave Iraq by July, the Pentagon reports 140,000 troops will remain, meaning that about 8,000 troops–over a quarter of the original ‘surge’–will be left behind.
When Gen. David Petraeus testified before Congress last September, he said he expected troops levels would fall to pre-surge levels by this July. Yet this week, Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, chief of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rejected suggestions that the Pentagon’s latest update evinced any kind of negative turn. “Rather than look at this negatively, I would say there is an opportunity now to take advantage of the security that has been established by the five surge brigades,” he said.
A chipper Dana Perino had more encouragement for reporters at yesterday’s White House press briefing. “As long as we keep at it and we keep working at it, we’re confident that Iraq will become a country that can sustain, govern, and defend itself,” said Perino.