Forces in Iraq Pursue ‘Methodical, Flexible’ Exit Plan

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2011 — With some 33,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq and less than two months left to com­plete with­draw­al by Dec. 31, the rede­ploy­ment oper­a­tion under way there is extra­or­di­nary, a senior offi­cer with U.S. Forces Iraq said today.

Army Maj. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, the command’s deputy com­mand­ing gen­er­al for sup­port, briefed Pen­ta­gon reporters here on the mas­sive relo­ca­tion effort via video tele­con­fer­ence from Bagh­dad.

“There are trucks and planes and peo­ple mov­ing very quick­ly, … [but] this is not a rush to the exits,” he said.

At the height of the troop surge, U.S. forces inhab­it­ed 505 bases through­out Iraq, Spoehr not­ed. When Oper­a­tion New Dawn began in Sep­tem­ber 2010, the num­ber had dropped to 92; today, there are 12, he said.

Troop lev­els are down from more than 165,000, and equip­ment once num­ber­ing more than 2 mil­lion pieces is down to 600,000, he added.

Most of the remain­ing troops will take mil­i­tary flights to Kuwait and return to the Unit­ed States from there, while some will take direct com­mer­cial flights from Iraq to the Unit­ed States, the gen­er­al said.

Spoehr over­sees logis­tics, per­son­nel, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and con­tract­ing for U.S. forces in Iraq, and said the scope of the rede­ploy­ment effort there is unequalled since World War II’s “Red Ball Express” truck con­voys sup­plied Allied com­bat forces in Europe.

“What we’re exe­cut­ing is a delib­er­ate plan to safe­ly and respon­si­bly with­draw from Iraq by Dec. 31,” he said. “This plan is flex­i­ble enough to account for change — no plan should be so rigid that it can­not account for adverse weath­er or ene­my activ­i­ty — but it’s a method­i­cal and mea­sured plan.”

As rede­ploy­ment efforts ramp up, the gen­er­al said, some 55 U.S. mil­i­tary logis­tics con­voys involv­ing up to 1,650 trucks criss­cross Iraq at any giv­en time, fun­nel­ing mil­i­tary equip­ment to Kuwait for ship­ment. The mil­i­tary and con­tract­ed dri­vers on those con­voys are backed up by U.S. forces that have searched the roads for bombs and gath­ered intel­li­gence on secu­ri­ty threats, the gen­er­al said.

“If they get in any trou­ble, of course, the U.S. Forces Iraq stand behind them with all kinds of com­bat pow­er and med­ical care, should they need it,” Spoehr added.

The gen­er­al not­ed the State Depart­ment will lead U.S. efforts in Iraq as of Jan. 1, 2012, and will over­see the Office of Secu­ri­ty Coop­er­a­tion Iraq, which, among oth­er tasks, will man­age the deliv­ery of U.S. weapons pur­chased by the Iraqi gov­ern­ment, includ­ing M1 tanks and F-16 fight­er jets.

U.S. forces have loaned some mil­i­tary equip­ment to the State Depart­ment, includ­ing cam­era-equipped sur­veil­lance sys­tems, radar sys­tems and mine-pro­tect­ed vehi­cles, the gen­er­al said.

U.S. forces also have trans­ferred some items to the Iraqi gov­ern­ment, he said. Most of that equip­ment is use­ful in run­ning bases and would cost more to ship home than to replace, he added. Items trans­ferred to Iraq thus far have a fair mar­ket val­ue of $196 mil­lion, Spoehr explained, but rep­re­sent ship­ping-cost avoid­ance of $298 mil­lion.

The two hall­marks of the oper­a­tion, the gen­er­al said, are force pro­tec­tion and stew­ard­ship — keep­ing troops safe, account­ing for mil­i­tary prop­er­ty and return­ing bases to the Iraqi gov­ern­ment “bet­ter than we found them.”

While vio­lent attacks now aver­age 14 a day, down from a dai­ly aver­age of near­ly 149 from 2007 to 2009, Iraq remains a dan­ger­ous place, and U.S. forces there remain com­mit­ted to ensur­ing their fel­low ser­vice mem­bers are pro­tect­ed until they reach home, Spoehr said.

“In those last few weeks, few days of this cal­en­dar year, the pri­ma­ry peo­ple will be those that you can’t let go near the end,” he said. “Our med­ical peo­ple that have to pro­vide access to unin­ter­rupt­ed med­ical care; our logis­ti­cians, who are respon­si­ble for safe­ly mov­ing all the peo­ple and the equip­ment out of Iraq; and then the nec­es­sary com­bat pow­er to make sure we’re strong … until the last moment.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)