Remember those campaign promises to bring a swift and honorable peace in the two wars that President Obama inherited? Forget about it.
Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff, said Tuesday his planning envisions combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade as part of a sustained U.S. commitment to fighting extremism and terrorism in the Middle East.
"Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction," Casey said. "They fundamentally will change how the Army works."
The U.S. currently has about 139,000 troops in Iraq. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Iraqi government in February that all U.S. troops would be out of that country by 2012. Except, of course, for the ones that Gen. Casey wants to keep there:
Casey would not specify how combat units would be divided between Iraq and Afghanistan. He said U.S. ground commander Gen. Ray Odierno is leading a study to determine how far U.S. forces could be cut back in Iraq and still be effective. Casey said his comments about the long war in Iraq were not meant to conflict with administration policies.
And don't get confused in Afghanistan, either. We're not building up troop levels, assures the AP, despite the fact that, well, we're putting more people there.
Obama campaigned on ending the Iraq war as quickly as possible and refocusing U.S. resources on what he called the more important fight in Afghanistan.
That will not mean a major influx of U.S. fighting forces on the model of the Iraq "surge," however. Obama has agreed to send about 21,000 combat forces and trainers to Afghanistan this year. Combined with additional forces approved before President George W. Bush left office, the United States is expected to have about 68,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year. That's about double the total at the end of 2008, but Obama's top military and civilian advisers have indicated the total is unlikely to grow much beyond that.
You got that? You double the total of troops in a year, but that's not an increase worth worrying about and besides, the president's top military and civilian advisers have said it's not "unlikely to grow much beyond that." Except for the Army chief of staff, who says that his vision of a "long" war doesn't conflict with his commander's vision of a short war, which includes doubling the total of troops in Afghanistan...
This all sounds like a bad episode of M*A*S*H, where Trapper and Hawkeye confront spinmeister Army brass who just don't care about the kids being sent to them for meatball surgery. More than that, it sounds like either no one is in charge or, scarier still, these characters know exactly what they're doing, which is working a pliant press corps and b.s.'ing their way through a P.R. campaign that's far more effective than whatever it is we're doing in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Update: I forgot to link to the actual AP story above. Here 'tis. Thanks to Eric Hanneken in comments for doing so hours ago.