I find it interesting that although obama promised to draw troops home, up until less than 6 months ago he had actually deployed more troops than he brought home!
obama only began to pull troops home within the last 6 months, AGAINST THE RECOMMENDATION OF TOP GENERALS and MILITARY ADVISORS, (RIGHT BEFORE THE ELECTION), and then plans another troop buildup in the region DIRECTLY AFTER THE ELECTION!!!
Yet...while he continues to ask MORE from our military, he plans to force them to do it with LESS!!!
Yet...while he continues to ask MORE from our military, he plans to force them to do it with LESS!!!
Democrats press Pentagon for more cuts...reductions in medical, retirement benefits:
U.S. Planning Troop Buildup in Gulf After Exit From Iraq...
Obama's Afghanistan Troop Levels 5X Bush's:
GENERALS: Do not abandon Afghanistan...
Obama's Choice: A Partial Exit, With Reelection in Mind:
November 6, 2011
Weighing Pentagon Cuts, Panetta Faces Deep Pressures:
By THOM SHANKER and ELISABETH BUMILLER
WASHINGTON — Under orders to cut the Pentagon budget by more than $450 billion over the next decade, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is considering reductions in spending categories once thought sacrosanct, especially in medical and retirement benefits, as well as further shrinking the number of troops and reducing new weapons purchases.
Mr. Panetta, a former White House budget chief, acknowledged in an interview that he faced deep political pressures as he weighed cuts to Pentagon spending, which has doubled to $700 billion a year since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He said that meeting deficit-reduction targets might require another round of base closings, which could be highly contentious as members of Congress routinely fight to protect military deployments and jobs in their communities.
Among other steps, Mr. Panetta said, Pentagon strategists were looking at additional cuts in the nuclear arsenal, with an eye toward determining how many warheads the military needed to deter attacks.
Mr. Panetta also held out the possibility of cutting the number of American troops based in Europe, with the United States compensating for any withdrawal by helping NATO allies improve their militaries. That effort would free up money so the United States could maintain or increase its forces in Asia, a high priority for the Obama administration, and sustain a presence in the Persian Gulf after the withdrawal from Iraq this year, he said.
In a 40-minute interview on Friday, Mr. Panetta offered the most detailed description to date of his plans to cut and reshape the military to fit a smaller budget — while still protecting national security interests and taking care of military personnel and their families.
It was clear in the interview that the defense secretary was addressing a variety of audiences: enlisted personnel, officers and veterans, as well as members of Congress who approve Pentagon spending and an American public exhausted by a decade of war and now worried about the nation’s financial health.
Mr. Panetta spoke less than three weeks before a special bipartisan committee is supposed to produce a far-reaching deficit-reduction plan.
If the committee deadlocks and fails to find $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions, then automatic cuts go into effect and the Pentagon could face an estimated $500 billion in additional reductions over the next decade.
Mr. Panetta has called those additional cuts potentially ruinous. In that view, he has allies in Congress, especially Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, who are preparing legislation that would undo the automatic across-the-board cuts for military programs, or exchange them for cuts in other areas of the federal budget. The defense secretary’s stated views could well put more pressure on the committee to come up with a deal.
Apart from the prospect of the automatic cuts, some Republicans have already criticized the administration’s planned reductions as dangerously severe. Some Tea Party members and liberals, by contrast, have argued that the administration’s reductions are too modest.
The administration’s more than $450 billion in cuts would reduce the military budget by roughly 7 or 8 percent over the next 10 years, even beyond the spending reductions that would come from the withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to government budget projections.
Although Pentagon spending stands at about $700 billion this year, the Defense Department’s base operating budget is about $530 billion, with the rest allocated by Congress for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pentagon officials predict that total Defense Department spending will drop to $522.5 billion by 2017.
Mr. Panetta outlined a series of guiding principles for where to invest and where to cut. He pledged to maintain and even increase spending in areas that have redefined the American way of war in recent years. They include cyberoffense and defense, unmanned aircraft, known as drones, and Special Operations forces — like those who killed Osama bin Laden and who also train foreign militaries to battle insurgencies so the United States does not have to.
“We’re going from three cops to two cops in a pretty rough neighborhood,” Mr. Panetta said in his office, where a portion of one wall is devoted to mementos from the raid that killed Bin Laden, which he directed in his former role as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
“We’re going to be developing a smaller, lighter, more agile, flexible joint force that has to conduct a full range of military activities that are necessary to defend our national interests,” he said. “So even though they’re going to be smaller and lighter, we’ve got to make sure they always maintain a technological edge.”
Trimming Pentagon spending by eliminating waste and increasing productivity remains a goal, he said — but he acknowledged that that would not be enough.
“There will be some huge political challenges,” he said. “When you reduce defense spending, there’s likely to be base closures, possible reduction in air wings.”
Mr. Panetta cited North Korea and Iran as persistent threats, and said that the military had to maintain “the ability to deter and defeat them.” Still, he did not envision maintaining a ground force large enough to conduct a long, bloody war and then stability operations in North Korea or Iran, as the United States did in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Under current plans, the Army is to drop to 520,000 troops, from 570,000, and the Marine Corps to 186,600, from 202,000, beginning in 2015, and Mr. Panetta said cuts could go below those levels. “There is a likelihood that there may be some additional reductions below that, but not very much at this point,” he said.
Mr. Panetta said he had met regularly at the White House with President Obama about the reductions to Pentagon spending. He described the president as closely involved and said Mr. Obama had met recently with the four armed services chiefs to discuss budget and strategy issues.
In what he described as the most sensitive of the potential cuts facing an all-volunteer force, Mr. Panetta said the Pentagon was considering raising fees for the military’s health insurance program, Tricare. Today, military retirees and families, who are guaranteed Tricare for life, pay only $460 a year in fees — far below what they would pay if they worked for a private employer — although a modest increase for new enrollees began last month.
The White House and Pentagon have made clear that Tricare fee increases would be phased in over a few years and would affect current retirees and troops serving today when they retire. Health care costs for the Pentagon, the nation’s largest employer, total $50 billion a year, or about a tenth of its base budget. Ten years ago, health care cost the Pentagon $19 billion, equal to about $25 billion in today’s dollars.
Mr. Panetta provided no details of potential reductions in military retirement pay for those who enlist in the future, but said he would consider supporting the creation of a binding commission to review such pay. He also indicated that he might support a change that would increase retirement spending, by offering some retirement pay to those who had served less than 20 years. Currently only those who have served at least 20 years receive retirement pay, which is 50 percent of their final annual base pay, for life.
“Are there ways, looking at the retirement piece, where those who serve 10 or 12 years might be able to take that retirement with them?” Mr. Panetta said.
In potential reductions to major weapons systems, Mr. Panetta said he was considering cutting the purchases of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a radar-evading jet for the Air Force, Navy and Marines that is projected to cost nearly $400 billion for more than 2,400 planes over the next two decades. He suggested he might slow or cut back production, although the final decision may be to protect that jet program and identify cuts in other weapons purchases.
October 29, 2011
U.S. Planning Troop Buildup in Gulf After Exit From Iraq:
By THOM SHANKER and STEVEN LEE MYERS
MacDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran.
The plans, under discussion for months, gained new urgency after President Obama’s announcement this month that the last American soldiers would be brought home from Iraq by the end of December. Ending the eight-year war was a central pledge of his presidential campaign, but American military officers and diplomats, as well as officials of several countries in the region, worry that the withdrawal could leave instability or worse in its wake.
After unsuccessfully pressing both the Obama administration and the Iraqi government to permit as many as 20,000 American troops to remain in Iraq beyond 2011, the Pentagon is now drawing up an alternative.
In addition to negotiations over maintaining a ground combat presence in Kuwait, the United States is considering sending more naval warships through international waters in the region.
With an eye on the threat of a belligerent Iran, the administration is also seeking to expand military ties with the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. While the United States has close bilateral military relationships with each, the administration and the military are trying to foster a new “security architecture” for the Persian Gulf that would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defense.
The size of the standby American combat force to be based in Kuwait remains the subject of negotiations, with an answer expected in coming days. Officers at the Central Command headquarters here declined to discuss specifics of the proposals, but it was clear that successful deployment plans from past decades could be incorporated into plans for a post-Iraq footprint in the region.
For example, in the time between the Persian Gulf war in 1991 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States Army kept at least a combat battalion — and sometimes a full combat brigade — in Kuwait year-round, along with an enormous arsenal ready to be unpacked should even more troops have been called to the region.
“Back to the future” is how Maj. Gen. Karl R. Horst, Central Command’s chief of staff, described planning for a new posture in the Gulf. He said the command was focusing on smaller but highly capable deployments and training partnerships with regional militaries. “We are kind of thinking of going back to the way it was before we had a big ‘boots on the ground’ presence,” General Horst said. “I think it is healthy. I think it is efficient. I think it is practical.”
Mr. Obama and his senior national security advisers have sought to reassure allies and answer critics, including many Republicans, that the United States will not abandon its commitments in the Persian Gulf even as it winds down the war in Iraq and looks ahead to doing the same in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
“We will have a robust continuing presence throughout the region, which is proof of our ongoing commitment to Iraq and to the future of that region, which holds such promise and should be freed from outside interference to continue on a pathway to democracy,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Tajikistan after the president’s announcement.
During town-hall-style meetings with military personnel in Asia last week, the secretary of defense, Leon E. Panetta, noted that the United States had 40,000 troops in the region, including 23,000 in Kuwait, though the bulk of those serve as logistical support for the forces in Iraq.
As they undertake this effort, the Pentagon and its Central Command, which oversees operations in the region, have begun a significant rearrangement of American forces, acutely aware of the political and budgetary constraints facing the United States, including at least $450 billion of cuts in military spending over the next decade as part of the agreement to reduce the budget deficit.
Officers at Central Command said that the post-Iraq era required them to seek more efficient ways to deploy forces and maximize cooperation with regional partners. One significant outcome of the coming cuts, officials said, could be a steep decrease in the number of intelligence analysts assigned to the region. At the same time, officers hope to expand security relationships in the region. General Horst said that training exercises were “a sign of commitment to presence, a sign of commitment of resources, and a sign of commitment in building partner capability and partner capacity.”
Col. John G. Worman, Central Command’s chief for exercises, noted a Persian Gulf milestone: For the first time, he said, the military of Iraq had been invited to participate in a regional exercise in Jordan next year, called Eager Lion 12, built around the threat of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.
Another part of the administration’s post-Iraq planning involves the Gulf Cooperation Council, dominated by Saudi Arabia. It has increasingly sought to exert its diplomatic and military influence in the region and beyond. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, for example, sent combat aircraft to the Mediterranean as part of the NATO-led intervention in Libya, while Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates each have forces in Afghanistan.
At the same time, however, the council sent a mostly Saudi ground force into Bahrain to support that government’s suppression of demonstrations this year, despite international criticism.
Despite such concerns, the administration has proposed establishing a stronger, multilateral security alliance with the six nations and the United States. Mr. Panetta and Mrs. Clinton outlined the proposal in an unusual joint meeting with the council on the sidelines of the United Nations in New York last month.
The proposal still requires the approval of the council, whose leaders will meet again in December in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and the kind of multilateral collaboration that the administration envisions must overcome rivalries among the six nations.
“It’s not going to be a NATO tomorrow,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic negotiations still under way, “but the idea is to move to a more integrated effort.”
Iran, as it has been for more than three decades, remains the most worrisome threat to many of those nations, as well as to Iraq itself, where it has re-established political, cultural and economic ties, even as it provided covert support for Shiite insurgents who have battled American forces.
“They’re worried that the American withdrawal will leave a vacuum, that their being close by will always make anyone think twice before taking any action,” Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, said in an interview, referring to officials in the Persian Gulf region.
Sheik Khalid was in Washington last week for meetings with the administration and Congress. “There’s no doubt it will create a vacuum,” he said, “and it may invite regional powers to exert more overt action in Iraq.”
He added that the administration’s proposal to expand its security relationship with the Persian Gulf nations would not “replace what’s going on in Iraq” but was required in the wake of the withdrawal to demonstrate a unified defense in a dangerous region. “Now the game is different,” he said. “We’ll have to be partners in operations, in issues and in many ways that we should work together.”
At home, Iraq has long been a matter of intense dispute. Some foreign policy analysts and Democrats — and a few Republicans — say the United States has remained in Iraq for too long. Others, including many Republicans and military analysts, have criticized Mr. Obama’s announcement of a final withdrawal, expressing fear that Iraq remained too weak and unstable.
“The U.S. will have to come to terms with an Iraq that is unable to defend itself for at least a decade,” Adam Mausner and Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote after the withdrawal announcement.
Twelve Senators demanded hearings on the administration’s ending of negotiations with the Iraqis — for now at least — on the continuation of American training and on counterterrorism efforts in Iraq.
“As you know, the complete withdrawal of our forces from Iraq is likely to be viewed as a strategic victory by our enemies in the Middle East, especially the Iranian regime,” the senators wrote Wednesday in a letter to the chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee.
Thom Shanker reported from MacDill Air Force Base, and Steven Lee Myers from Washington.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: November 6, 2011
An article last Sunday about plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after withdrawal from Iraq described incorrectly the political affiliations of a group of senators requesting hearings on the negotiations that led to the withdrawal. The group is made up of 11 Republicans and one independent (Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut) — not 12 Republicans.
Obama's Afghanistan Troop Levels 5X Bush's
In a previous post, I stated that Obama has doubled troop levels in Afghanistan over the levels Bush had deployed. Bush took a different approach to avoid additional casualties given the challenges of fighting a full-blown ground war in Afghanistan.
In reality, Obama has almost five times as many ground troops deployed than Bush. That light footprint approach was taken long before Iraq. Many believed that a massive deployment of ground troops in Afghanistan would be too great a risk. Obama's political challenge was to appease his get out of Iraq base, while not appearing like a McGovern. So, he came up with Afghanistan as the answer.
That sort of nation building, especially in a place as primitive as Afghanistan, has never been popular with American voters. It's especially unpopular when combined with highly restrictive rules of engagement that have tied the hands of the nearly 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, exposing them to danger from an enemy they're not allowed to strike.
Does that make it a prudent strategy? No, it was political, just as Steele suggested - it was being "cute." And does deploying 20k troops versus 100k sound like the same war to you? It's an entirely different approach. And Obama owns it. Steele is correct to make him do so, while continuing to support the troops himself.
As the first link above reports, 60% of Americans want to begin a withdrawal by July 2011. Meanwhile, we are being warned of increased fighting and causalities. The way Obama is prosecuting his war has risks far beyond the way Bush went forward. Pray for our soldiers and hope for the best result. But do not be surprised if incompetent present-dent Barry meets another very real Waterloo. He's managed to screw up almost everything else.
Obama's Choice: A Partial Exit, With Reelection in Mind
by Ron Fournier
Updated: June 23, 2011 8:53 a.m.
June 22, 2011 8:40 p.m.
Don't kid yourself. President Obama’s decision to withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan before he stands for reelection is not driven by the United States’ “position of strength” in the war zone as much as it is by grim economic and political realities at home.
A sagging economy, a soaring national debt, and an increasingly restive Congress pushed Obama to order troop reductions that are both deeper and faster than recommended by his military commanders.
“America,” the president said in a prime-time address from the East Room, “it is time to focus on nation building here at home.”
In announcing his decision, which still leaves 68,000 troops in the country after the 2012 election, Obama focused on a set of numbers that pander to a war-weary nation—10,000 troops out this year and another 23,000 in 2012—keeping a promise he made in 2009 to begin winding down the “surge” by the middle of this year.
By 2014, Obama said, “this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.”
But the president’s eye is set on numbers that have little to do with battlefield strategy and everything to do with his reelection hopes. They include:
Fifty-six percent of Americans say U.S. troops should be brought home as soon as possible, up from 40 percent a year ago (Pew Research Center).
Fewer than a quarter of people see signs of improvement in the economy and two-thirds say the country is on the wrong track. A clear majority of Americans say their children are destined to a lower standard of living (Bloomberg News National Poll).
The United States has spent $1.3 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade. Afghanistan alone is costing about $120 billion this year.
“Now,” Obama said, “we must invest in America’s greatest resource—our people.” He called for more spending on infrastructure and new energies and urged Americans to “recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war.''
White House operatives went to great lengths to show Obama shifting focus from wars abroad to domestic issues at home. Their public-relations plan called for, among other things, leaking word that Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, recommended a more limited withdrawal.
The usually leak-averse White House also made sure reporters were told that both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, two hawks in the Obama cabinet, had accepted Obama’s decision—but only reluctantly.
The message as framed by the Obama political team: He knows it’s the economy, stupid; he’ll focus on it like a laser beam, even if it means “defying” his commanders and Cabinet.
In doing so, Obama laid out a “more centered course” in U.S. foreign policy. Without calling it a new doctrine, Obama said the United States must be “as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute.”
“When threatened, we must respond with force—but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas,” Obama said. He cited Libya as an example of the United States leading a coalition whose aim is to help a nation win freedom.
Obama does not need to worry as much as past Democratic presidents about being labeled soft on national security—not after giving the order that led to the assassination of Osama bin Laden. No, his biggest concern is being labeled tone deaf on joblessness and debt.
He saw the writing on the wall when a growing number of lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike, clamored for a drawdown in Afghanistan. The shift was most pronounced among the candidates seeking the GOP presidential nomination. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who entered the race on Tuesday, hammered Obama not from the right, but from the left.
“I think there is room to draw down more,” Huntsman told ABC.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was even more pointed about Obama’s choice—more war or steps toward peace? “We must choose,” Manchin said in a warning shot issued before Obama’s address, “and I choose America.”
In the end, Obama chose the clearest course to reelection.