U.S. Forces in Iraq Prepare for Transition

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2011 — The mil­i­tary is using an old camp­ing adage as U.S. Forces Iraq con­tin­ues to move ser­vice mem­bers out of Iraq and trans­fer con­trol to the Iraqi gov­ern­ment: “Leave the site in bet­ter shape than you found it.”

“Eight years of con­tin­u­ous con­flict has result­ed in a sub­stan­tial amount of equip­ment, sup­plies, prop­er­ty and per­son­nel still in Iraq, and we’ll with­draw with the con­stant threat of ene­my attack and the poten­tial for bad weath­er, and we’re doing so in a delib­er­ate, mea­sured man­ner, ensur­ing we pro­tect ser­vice mem­bers, civil­ians, con­trac­tors, equip­ment and prop­er­ty, and we intend­ed turnover bases, and we have been, bet­ter than we found them,” Army Maj. Gen. Thomas W. Spoehr said dur­ing an Oct. 13 “DODLive” blog­gers round­table.

Spoehr � deputy com­mand­ing gen­er­al of U.S. Forces Iraq — said the tran­si­tion is of unpar­al­leled mag­ni­tude. In 2008, U.S. forces num­bered 165,000, resid­ing on 505 bases, he said. Today, U.S. forces are 41,000 strong, liv­ing on 22 bases. On aver­age, his mis­sion still requires him to with­draw 520 peo­ple each day, he added.

The gen­er­al said plans under the 2008 bilat­er­al secu­ri­ty agree­ment — which states that all U.S. forces will with­draw from Iraq by Dec. 31 — are on track. U.S. Forces Iraq is mak­ing the with­draw­al with bud­gets in mind, Spoehr said, sell­ing a large amount of equip­ment, infra­struc­ture and recy­clable waste to the Iraqi mil­i­tary and gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

“We sold 6.8 mil­lion pounds of scrap just [this month], and since Sept. 1, 2010, we have sold more than 142 mil­lion pounds of unser­vice­able mate­r­i­al through scrap sales,” he said. He added that the sale of equip­ment has saved Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers $600 mil­lion in ship­ping and trans­port costs alone.

The ulti­mate choice to sell or relo­cate equip­ment is being made as delib­er­ate­ly as pos­si­ble, the gen­er­al said.

“We have about 788,000 pieces of equip­ment,” he said. “Each one of these kind of gets a scruti­ny in terms of cost ben­e­fit and what’s the best dis­po­si­tion of that equip­ment. Obvi­ous­ly, our first pri­or­i­ty would be to sat­is­fy any kind of in-the­ater require­ments. So if there was a piece of equip­ment that was need­ed in Afghanistan to pros­e­cute a war there, or for anoth­er mil­i­tary need, we would uti­lize that first.”

Spoehr said the tran­si­tion has­n’t been sim­ply a mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary trans­fer. Iraqi gov­ern­ment agen­cies have their eyes on soon-to-be for­mer Amer­i­can facil­i­ties.

“One of these bases, I think it was Warhorse, was signed for by the min­istry of youth and sports, and so they intend to make that base a kind of a sports camp for Iraqi youth, where they can maybe spend a week or so and learn to play soc­cer or things like that,” he said. “The gov­ern­ment of Iraq in some cas­es has kind of gone dif­fer­ent direc­tions and plans to give some of these bases to some of their oth­er min­istries.”

Spoehr explained that in the end, clean­ing up bases and equip­ment is more than a mat­ter of dol­lars and logis­tics. For him, it’s a mat­ter of respect.

“As we turn over each base, it’s kind of our point of pride that we’re turn­ing it over bet­ter than we found it,” he said.

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