Friday, July 29, 2011

US take on Iraq pullout ‘one bite at a time’ -- More like flea's nibble (a flea that's already had lunch), actually

From flyers warning troops the post office will shut soon to disused housing units waiting to be dispatched to their new destination, the signs are everywhere: US forces are packing up to leave Iraq more than eight years after they first arrived.

The scale of the operation is unprecedented in the army’s history – preparing to transfer dozens of bases to the Iraqis, and handing over, disposing of or shipping out thousands of vehicles, generators, air conditioners and other materiel.

Under the terms of a bilateral security pact with Iraq, the 47,000 US soldiers currently in the country must leave by the end of the year.

“Every time you pack up your place, (you think) where this stuff did come from?” said Colonel Steve Cook, the top logistics officer for American forces in north Iraq, likening the process to moving house.

“It seems to be a lot more than you bargained for,” he said in an interview at Contingency Operating Base Speicher on the outskirts of Tikrit, 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad.

Cook and other senior officers who arrived at COB Speicher, the US northern headquarters, toward the end of 2010, estimated that the majority of their task of moving soldiers, contractors and equipment out of Iraq had yet to be done.

From the end of last year, around dollar 30 million worth of non-military items on US bases in the north, such as generators and air conditioners, have been given to Iraq at no cost, under a programme authorised by the US Congress.

Cook, 44, estimated that the monetary value of the items handed over would at least double by the end of the year as more is transferred. (more)