Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Playing Iraqi base bingo: Where might Uncle Sam land? Ambassador Crocker says it is high time to begin the talks

Here a Foreign Service officer speculates on which bases the United States government might like to keep in Iraq after this year. But I disagree with his notion of forward bases on the doorsteps of Iran and Syria. I agree with him on "Liberty/Victory," those overoptimistically named garrisons on the east side of the Baghdad ...

globalsecurity.org
globalsecurity.org
globalsecurity.org

Here a Foreign Service officer speculates on which bases the United States government might like to keep in Iraq after this year. But I disagree with his notion of forward bases on the doorsteps of Iran and Syria.

I agree with him on "Liberty/Victory," those overoptimistically named garrisons on the east side of the Baghdad airport, which is where you might want to base your anti-coup/force protection/QRF mechanized infantry brigade. But I think for a big central base, you'd want Balad, for the airport and the relative safety of the place. Plus you probably want one more in the north, maybe at Kirkuk, to keep the Kurds and Arabs on the straight and narrow, and perhaps one in the south, probably Tallil, just to the west of Nasiriyah.

But the south is increasingly problematic. I've been thinking that the next (and for Americans, perhaps the last) phase of the war may be from Baghdad south. Over the last seven years, Americans haven't paid much attention to south-central Iraq. But looking at where U.S. forces are being attacked, in very small numbers, I suspect something is going on down there, and may intensify this fall. The Sadrists filed notice the other day that they will oppose a continued American presence.

Here a Foreign Service officer speculates on which bases the United States government might like to keep in Iraq after this year. But I disagree with his notion of forward bases on the doorsteps of Iran and Syria.

I agree with him on "Liberty/Victory," those overoptimistically named garrisons on the east side of the Baghdad airport, which is where you might want to base your anti-coup/force protection/QRF mechanized infantry brigade. But I think for a big central base, you’d want Balad, for the airport and the relative safety of the place. Plus you probably want one more in the north, maybe at Kirkuk, to keep the Kurds and Arabs on the straight and narrow, and perhaps one in the south, probably Tallil, just to the west of Nasiriyah.

But the south is increasingly problematic. I’ve been thinking that the next (and for Americans, perhaps the last) phase of the war may be from Baghdad south. Over the last seven years, Americans haven’t paid much attention to south-central Iraq. But looking at where U.S. forces are being attacked, in very small numbers, I suspect something is going on down there, and may intensify this fall. The Sadrists filed notice the other day that they will oppose a continued American presence.

Meanwhile, here is an excerpt from a good interview Ambassador Ryan Crocker did with in the Houston Chronicle the other day, in which he says it is time to get talking about all this:

What I am hoping is that in the next couple of months the Iraqi government will come to us very quietly and say, ‘Hey you know that 2008 agreement that that idiot Crocker negotiated that called for the total withdrawal of all U.S. forces by the end of 2011? Let’s see how we might creatively modify that.’ The agreement will have to reach its fruition. It can’t be renegotiated. It would be politically impossible for both administrations. We couldn’t do it, either. I mean, you could not have Obama extending a Bush deadline. But there are still lots of creative options, and you can call it whatever you want, but I think — what I hope — we’re doing is a lot of in-house work on what a range of acceptable options to us might be, what a range of acceptable agreements might look like, and acceptable force levels.

Speaking of Iran, here is a new radio show all about it.

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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