After our Sean and Tony pulled out, there wasn’t a lot of news out of the 3rd Brigade up in Mosul.
That’s bound to change now that they’re moving south to Baghdad, where they’ll be the only Strykers in town now that the 172nd is on its way home to Alaska.
We’d been tipped about 10 days back about the move, but weren’t getting much traction in our efforts to confirm.
My theory as to how the story broke yesterday: Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace said they’d move a couple of battalions into Baghdad. Reporters peppered him pretty good with followups based on this notion that all U.S. forces were going to be pulled out of Al Anbar Province. From the transcript:
Q: Any idea where those additional forces from within Iraq are going to come from?
GEN. PACE: I don’t have that, no.
Q: General Casey, just to be — I’m sorry — General Pace, just to be clear, you know, some of the reports have suggested that the Pentagon and you in particular are considering essentially throwing in the towel in Al Anbar province, shifting those Marines to Baghdad and just simply turning Al Anbar province over to the Iraqis. Is that something that you’re giving serious consideration to?
GEN. PACE: No.
Q: Can you elaborate on that at all?
GEN. PACE: You gave me a very straight question. I gave you a very straight answer. No. Why would we want to forfeit any part of Iraq to the enemy? We don’t.
Q: General Pace, are you equating turning a province in Iraq over to Iraqi security forces as turning it over to the enemy?
GEN. PACE: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. The question was, were we going to abandon Al Anbar. And the answer is, no. That is much different than we still providing security in a province where the “we” is mostly Iraqi security forces as opposed to coalition forces. Very distinct difference.
Q: Okay. Let’s be sure we have the significance. So you are not ruling out the idea of turning over security in Anbar to the Iraqis, having them take the lead, and moving some of those forces, U.S. forces that are now in Anbar, into Baghdad.
GEN. PACE: Two different parts of your question. Number one, eventually over time, it is our goal to turn over every province in Iraq to the Iraq security forces under the command and control of the Iraq government. That is our goal. There is no immediate thoughts to moving all coalition forces out of Al Anbar Province and turning over right now today all security in Al Anbar to Iraqi security forces. It’s not on the table.
So as I said, my theory: After the briefing, one of the chief’s staffers grabs a couple of reporters – Lolita Baldor or Pauline Jelinek from the AP, Michael Gordon from the NY Times – and tells ‘em its the Strykers from Mosul, not the Marines from Ramadi. Or something like that.
There will certainly be more news about this in the coming days and weeks.