A Pause To Regroup Or Reduce?

The Bush administration is sending strong signals that U.S. troop reductions in iraq will be slowed down or halted in the coming months, a move that would jeopardize hopes of relieving strain on the Army and Marine Corps and revive debate over an open-ended Americ an commitment in Iraq. This move is in response to pressure from military commanders in Iraq who fear any further reduction in the size of their forces would reverse the success they have achieved over the past few months in dealing with terrorism. General Petraeus is to report to the president and Congress in April about his recommendations regarding the size of US forces in the coming year. There are indications he believes it is best to halt further reduction and consolidate success. Bush emphasized in the State of the Union address he will base his decisions on recommendations of Petraeus.

A major problem is the uncertainty as to what will happen once the size of American forces in Iraq are cut back. Will the Sunni-led Awakening Movement be a factor in reducing insurgent attacks or will it become involved in fighting with Shiite troops who are loyal to the government?

An unknown factor in the coming year is the attitude of an incoming president in January, 2009. A President John McCain will undoubtedly continue the Bush policy of relying on recommendations of General Petraeus. A president Obama is probably the most difficult to gauge in terms of troop reductions.