Post-Iraq, U.S. ponders a small Mideast military force
Leaders of United States Central Command have ordered its Air Force, Army, and Navy components to look at how America will reposture its military forces in the Middle East after the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In an exclusive interview today with U.S. News, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the Centcom director of plans and strategy, said it is important for America to begin to think about what size force will be needed to fight "the long war" against Islamic extremism after the U.S. leaves Iraq.
"We do not believe we want to follow the same strategy post-Iraq and Afghanistan that we followed post-World War II," Kimmitt said. "We are not going to garrison the Middle East the way we garrisoned Western Europe."
Although some military experts speculated at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq that America would keep a long-term presence, Kimmitt said such a garrison force would be counterproductive, creating the perception that the United States wanted to "occupy permanently" the region or take the region's oil.
Kimmitt said the 2,000-person force in Djibouti could be a model of the kind of operation the United States has in the Middle East post-Iraq.
Between Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait and aboard naval vessels there are now about 200,000 troops in the region.
"We would like it to be a small fraction [of 200,000], but it is hard to put a number on it: if it is one tenth, one fifth," Kimmitt said. "But I think we are talking that level of reduction."