Security Slows Troop Withdrawals

A top architect of the troop surge tells Whispers why fewer soldiers will be returning home this summer. In a word: Security.

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When retired Army Gen. John Keane talks, people should listen. That's because he's a regular adviser to Iraq war boss Gen. David Petraeus , called for the recent troop surge, and is now explaining what Defense Secretary Robert Gates means when he suggests a pause to troop withdrawals. In the first on-the-record comments about the pause, Keane tells us not to expect any further troop reductions this presidential election year after five reinforcement brigades exit, leaving about 140,000 troops in Iraq. "I think the pause will probably last for most if not all of the remainder of '08," he says. "We're going to have our last unit [of the five surge brigades] out of there in June or July. I think they will take a few months to assess it. And I think the further reductions, if there are any reductions, it would be late '08 or sometime in '09, and I think they would be metered and be very slow, based on two major variables," Keane says, referring to the resulting security of the nation and U.S. troops. "One is the capacity of the enemy and, two is the capability of the Iraqi security forces. We underestimated the enemy in the past and that led to the failure we had. And we overestimated the Iraqis' capability in the past. General Petraeus is very much aware of that and he does not want to repeat those past mistakes."