Iraq drawdown is a logistic challenge

Wednesday - 8/4/2010, 9:08am EDT

Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza, spokesman, U.S. forces in Iraq

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Imagine moving day is coming at the end of the month and you have to be packed up and ready to go by September first. And then there's all the stuff you've somehow managed to accumulate.

That's what American forces in Iraq are dealing with.

Major General Stephen Lanza, spokesman for all U.S. forces in Iraq, told Federal News Radio they've gotten a good head start, given the drawdown of troops in Iraq started in January of 2009 after security agreement was signed.

At this point, said Lanza, the current 63,000 "boots on the ground" will be reduced to 50,000 by the end of the month, four bases will be closing and 800,000 pieces of machinery will be headed out, with some of that going to Afghanistan. All this while maintaining partnership with Iraqi security forces.

Lanza said the progress has been impressive with 98 bases remaining operational, down from 505 at the height of the effort.

These have been everything from Joint Security Sites, JSSs, to some of the large bases that we've had, some of the bases that we've had out in Anbar such as Q-West. But eventually all of the bases will be removed and then turned back over to the Iraq receivership secretariat. And there's a very long process that we go through in terms of inventory, preparing the bases, going through an environmental inspection, going through an inventory with our Iraqi counterparts to make sure that not only do we turn these bases over, but the Iraqi security forces come in right behind us and they start conducting operations,...actually positioning either police, federal police, or Iraqi Army forces at these bases for their use.

And, truth be told, the Army's already made provisions to do what a lot of us do when we move: leave some stuff behind.

Lanza said approximately $98 million dollars will be donated in the form of rolling stock, communications equipment, weapons, and forensics equipment to the Iraqi security forces "based on the fact that it's excess personal property."

On September first, U.S. forces will transition "from combat operations to stability operations and the mission name will transition from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn signifying" the change, said Lanza.

At that point, except for the 50,000 troops needed for Operation New Dawn, those now in Iraq will be headed stateside, back to their parent units, and have at least a year at home before they have to redeploy.

The Welcome Wagons are waiting.