I can’t find confirmation of this online, but Brett Baier at Fox News has just said U.S. troops in Iraq will be reduced to 3,000 by the end of this year. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is reported to be the only Obama insider to fight for at least 10,000 to remain – she lost that battle. Baier also said some of our military leaders are unhappy about this decision. Senator Joe Lieberman is on Fox now saying he knew nothing about this, and can’t imagine leaving only 3,000 boots on the ground. He is asking if Iraq is demanding this level, or if this is Obama’s decision solely. See Updates below.
UPDATE 1:10pm CDT: Just heard on Fox, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is not happy with leaving only the token 3000 troops in Iraq to train, but lost the battle to the White House.
Senior commanders are said to be livid at the decision, which has already been signed off by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The generals on the ground had requested that the number of troops remaining in Iraq at the end of the year reach about 27,000. But, there was major pushback about “the cost and the political optics” of that decision that the number was then reduced to 10,000.
Commanders said they could possibly make that work “in extremis,” in other words, meaning they would be pushing it to make that number work security-wise and manpower-wise.
Now, sources confirm that the administration has pushed the Pentagon to cut the number even lower, and commanders are concerned for the safety of the U.S. troops who would remain there.
“We can’t secure everybody with only 3,000 on the ground nor can we do what we need to with the Iraqis,” one source said.
A senior military official said by reducing the number of troops to 3,000, the White House has effectively reduced the mission to training only.
“There is almost no room for security operations in that number; it will be almost purely a training mission,” this official said. The official added that a very small number of troops within that 3,000 will be dedicated to counter-terrorism efforts, but that’s not nearly what Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, wanted.
This shift is seen by various people as a cost-saving measure and a political measure. The only administration official fighting for at least 10,000 forces to stay in Iraq at the end of the year was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, sources said. But she has lost the battle.