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No, The Combat Troops Are Not All Leaving Iraq

Obama: Combat Effort in Iraq Ending on Schedule

President Says War is Nearing its Endpoint, Though Non-Combat Troops to Remain Through End of Next Year

…U.S. combat troops, he said, will be out of the country by the end of August, leaving about 50,000 "non-combat" troops who will leave by the end of 2011.

The small, minor glitch with the CBS story above—and many more like it published today—is that Obama did not say that all the combat troops were leaving this month. He certainly didn’t say this today in Atlanta, and to my knowledge he has never said it.

The reason Obama avoided saying this today likely stems from the fact that the units deployed in Iraq after August 31st 2010 will all be fully functional combat units. The only difference is that we will now call them by a different name, in which the word “combat” no longer appears. They are now termed "advise and assist brigades" by the administration, and the press dutifully reported this new term in their stories.

No wonder the press missed it. They can’t be expected to take dictation and fact-check it too.

Normally, misleading text and headlines are so commonplace they just don’t bother one like they used to. But this is Iraq. And I’m worried that the American public may be misled into thinking that all we’ll have over there a month from now are a few clerks and supply officers. The public might wrongly perceive from a false-fact like "all combat troops gone" that the light they’re seeing at the end of this horrific tunnel is fairly strong, when maybe it’s not that strong and it’s pretty far away.

What the administration has done (and the press would know this if they’d simply do their collective job) is rebrand the Iraqi mission with an new tag-line (“New Dawn”), and re-label six fully-combat-capable brigades with new, kinder and gentler titles. That’s basically the story. Here’s the February memo from Gates to CENTCOM giving the go-ahead to roll-out the kinder/gentler new mission tag-line that we’ll all going to hear so much about.

The New Dawn mission tagline and associated public relations effort doesn’t fit well with the word “combat”–and actually the American people have had their fill of the term too. So no accident that the administration has simply renamed six (or so) brigade combat teams as “advise and assist” brigades. The units may have received minor personnel changes, but otherwise are in no way different from existing combat brigades in Iraq. Indeed, some or maybe all of them are already deployed and functional under our current “Operation Iraqi Freedom” mission. The only thing that has changed is the name.

The six units are thought to be:

• 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
• 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division
• 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment
• 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
• 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
• 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Div

I’m going to be just a bit repetitive and say this as clearly as possible—just in case any journalist comes slumming through FDL and actually reads this. Here goes:

Each of these units will be in Iraq after 8/31/10, and each will be as fully combat-capable as any brigade combat team or armored cavalry regiment currently in Iraq. They have all the guns, bombs, rockets, tanks and artillery required to pound the living crap out of anything or anybody they choose.

For any jounalists who haven’t left to write about how some people think Amanpour is probably a taliban sympathizer, here is the DOD press release from October of last year announcing four of the above units for deployment. They’re described by DOD very clearly as “combat brigade teams”—because that’s what they are—but also listing them as “advise and assist brigades”.

It’s hard to conceive how the DOD could make this story any plainer for our American press.

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