In the Arena

Casualty Report

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I’m told that the U.S. military casualty report for Iraq last week was…4 wounded. That is wonderful news (and, of course, we hope the wounds weren’t serious and our troops recover soon). But you’ve got to wonder why we have nearly 150,000 troops still on the ground there. Yes, there are continuing internecine conflicts–the Times has an ominous report today about the situation in Mosul–but it shouldn’t be the job of the U.S. military to take sides in a squabble between Kurds and the Maliki government.

My guess–a reasonably well-informed one–is that significant withdrawals will begin after the first of the year, with at least two brigades rotating out of Iraq by the end of the winter (and their replacements rotating into Afghanistan instead). Withdrawals will continue apace thereafter, as Iraq transitions into a fairly standard, screwed-up and intermittently violent Middle Eastern state. Indeed, I am told that U.S. intelligence community now considers Pakistan the central front in the war on terror, especially after Al Qaeda tried to blow up the inner circle of Pakistani leadership in the Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad.