A US Intervention Force Planned “Beyond the Horizon”
Logistical preparations are afoot for the withdrawal of American and British troops from Iraq’s main cities, plans for which were first disclosed in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 275 of October 27 (Troops to Pull out of Main Towns).
Middle East and Persian Gulf governments have begun to factor these plans into their security and political calculations applying them also to their economic strategy.
One of the issues in the talks US National Intelligence Director John Negroponte held with regional leaders this week was their tendency to convert parts of their foreign currency reserves from US dollars to other currencies – the United Arab Emirates are switching to the Chinese yuan and other Asian currencies; the Saudis lean towards the euro.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Washington, London and Baghdad, report that US President George W. Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair decided that British forces based in the southern Iraqi port-town of Basra would lead the way for the new deployment.
Our Washington sources confirm that this redeployment is the first stage of the complete withdrawal of US and British forces from Iraq, expected to begin in 2007.
They will start marching out of Iraq’s second largest town ten days after America’s midterm elections on November 7. Most will redeploy in the better-protected oil fields and installations of the south; some to the Faw Peninsula, the better to defend British control of the strategic Shatt al-Arab exit to the Persian Gulf. Several hundred of the 7,500-strong force will quit Iraq and relocate at a British or American base in the Gulf or aboard a British warship.
The evacuated British troops will remain within fairly close calling distance from Iraq’s borders in case of a large-scale catastrophe or crisis.
After every last British soldier has quit Basra – by the end of November or early December – their comrades will troop out of Qat at Salih, al Amarah and a string of smaller towns in the Shiite south. The al-Amarah units are already stationed outside the town.
Completing US redeployment by March 2007
As the British withdrawal winds down towards the end of the year, American forces will begin drawing down their numbers in and around the main cities of Iraq.
Baghdad will come last.
The Americans, like the British, will lift a part of their military strength out of Iraq to bases in Persian Gulf states or place them aboard US naval vessels cruising in the Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea. Four US tasks forces are already in place, led by the USS Eisenhower, the USS Enterprise, the USS Iwo Jima and USS Boxer.
And like the Brits, the evacuated US troops aboard war ships will remain in the region with the mobility, flexibility and propinquity to intervene in security emergencies flaring in, say, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and Israel, or the emirates of Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources note that by this transition, the United States is in fact reverting to the “beyond the horizon” strategy it practiced in this part of the world in the 1980s and 1990s. In those years, Washington maintained extensive seaborne units in the Gulf ready for rapid intervention in case of trouble in Saudi Arabia.
It is calculated in Washington that the first stage of the redeployment of American forces to locations outside Iraqi cities and outside the country will take three to four months, ending some time in March 2007.
The Bush administration’s final decision to move ahead on this maneuver was transmitted in person to Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad by visiting US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley on Oct. 31.
Two days earlier, Saudi King Abdullah was updated by John Negroponte in Jeddah. The American intelligence director has spent most of the week going around Gulf and Middle East capitals for talks with their rulers.
Our military sources add that the redeployment of some of the US and British Iraq units on board ships in the Gulf, the Arabian Sea and Red Sea, will represent a fundamental restructuring of the US air and sea forces facing Iran from these waters. The input of combat troops from Iraq will substantially boost the seaborne task forces’ readiness for a possible military clash with Iran or for crisis intervention at any other point in the region.