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General Odierno’s troop request vs. the Pentagon spokesman’s quibbles

When asked yesterday about General Odierno’s request for more combat troops for Iraq after this August, Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon spokesman, denied that anything of the sort has happened: Q: Has General Odierno requested a combat brigade remain in Iraq after the August deadline? MR. MORRELL: General Odierno has made no such — no such ...

Paul J. Richards-Pool/Getty Images
Paul J. Richards-Pool/Getty Images

When asked yesterday about General Odierno’s request for more combat troops for Iraq after this August, Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon spokesman, denied that anything of the sort has happened:

Q: Has General Odierno requested a combat brigade remain in Iraq after the August deadline?

MR. MORRELL: General Odierno has made no such — no such proposal; nor has one been approved by this department. It is still very much our plan here in this building to meet the president’s policy guidelines to have our U.S. forces in Iraq down to 50,000 by the end of August.

Q: It’s all combat troops out, right?

MR. MORRELL: Combat units — combat units, BCT’s out, replaced by advisory-and-assistance brigades. But regardless of what the units are, the total number, as the president has mandated, is no more than 50,000. That is what we are planning for, that’s what we are on target for, and that’s where we are headed.

. . .  there has been no request made. There has been no request approved. We are going to be at 50,000 forces come the end of August, as we can now foresee it.

Q: But will the secretary support General Odierno, if he does come back and say that?

MR. MORRELL: Will he support —

Q: (Off mike.)

MR. MORRELL: There has — as I said a couple times previously, there has been no such request. So let’s see if there is such a request, then what the response would be.

How can I respond to something that has not happened and that is a hypothetical at this point?   

This is what is going on: Odierno has told people he has made the request. But I should have been clearer about the procedure: He informed officials that he plans to file formal papers about this  in a couple of months, probably June. Bottom line: He has been clear about what he wants. The president got it, and acknowledged the request. But apparently Geoff Morrell didn’t, or is pretending he didn’t.

It is like you see a friend at work and he says, “Hey bub, we’re gonna have a going-away party  for Joe on Saturday night, I’ll e-mail you the details later.” Would you say you have been invited to the party? Apparently Mr. Morrell would say not.

Speaking of the future of Iraq, this is the most impressive conference lineup I’ve seen in some time. It all goes down this coming Thursday March 4. 

Also, catching up: David Ignatius had a good piece in yesterday’s Washington Post about Iran’s influence in Iraq. Among his nuggets: the head of Iran’s Quds Force meeting with Chalabi to discuss the merger of slates of Shiite candidates. I thought the column was especially good because the role of Iran in Iraq is one of the biggest mysteries to me about the war. I suspect Tehran’s presence has been more pervasive than we suspect.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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