U.S.’s Iraq plans disrupted by Georgian withdrawal

AFP Photo / Vano Shlamov
American commanders in Iraq have been faced with a problem over how to plug the gap left by Georgian troops who returned home to fight in South Ossetia. The contingent was the third largest in the coalition after the Uni

They were deployed at the border with Iran and tasked with intercepting smuggled weapons.

But with half the brigade force suddenly missing after being airlifted home by the U.S. airforce, the commander in Iraq, General Petraeus, is being forced to revise his plans.

A senior military official told the Los Angeles Times: “One of the assumptions for the future in Iraq was that coalition contributions would remain relatively stable.”

But this looks increasingly unlikely and, as a further blow, the Georgian soldiers were not only numerous but also experienced.

“If you had to assess the 30 countries in Iraq as a coalition force, Georgia was among the top tier, both in number and capabilities,” said another military source.

American troop levels have gone from a peak of about 170,000 to approximately 140,000 over the course of the last year. Petraeus was expected to recommend a further reduction this autumn, but with Georgia’s pull-out and the continued withdrawal of British and Polish troops, the U.S. may be short on manpower to allow it.

The problems in Georgia may have other consequences for the Iraq war effort. On Thursday the U.S. military announced some intelligence assets will be repositioned to provide the Bush administration with more information on troop movement in Georgia.

It has been suggested that this could mean that satellites tracking the situation in Iraq may be re-deployed.