Iraq Pullout... Logistical Nightmare?

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that the U.S. is considering speeding up its withdrawal from Iraq, because violence levels have fallen so dramatically.

And, last week a memo written by Colonel Timothy R. Reese, a senior American military adviser in Baghdad, argued it is time for the U.S. to "declare victory and go home," lest our presence there cause further resentment.

Coming home from Iraq will be a challenge. It will be one of the largest relocations of military hardware and people in recent years.  How is it going to work?  Here and Now's Robin Young spoke with Major General Kenneth Dowd, the director of logistics for Central Command in Florida.

Robin: What kind of equipment would be left behind?

Gen. Dowd:  Right now we’re going through a process of identifying those types of equipment, and what we call white gear, which we built our base camps with. Those type of things might be donated or sold to the Iraqi folks.

Robin: What about the bases? At one point there were 275 in Iraq, you’ve turned over 100 this year alone. You talked about turning over buildings as part of what you’re doing, but are you literally moving Iraqis in, or is it Iraqi forces going into these bases? What’s happening with those buildings?

Gen. Dowd: Some of these bases are physically coming down, are being taken down, and we’re moving all the stuff and gear out here. Some are being trans-loaded to other locations that the Iraqis may fall in on, so it’s kind of like a chess board right now where they want to set their forces up, might be at one of our base camps and we might send some of our gear over there to improve that base camp but part of it is being taken down, base camps eliminated and some are for future Iraqi efforts so that’s the kind of way across the board.

Robin:  Tell us something that you are thinking about having to move that Americans might not be thinking about.

Gen. Dowd:  What keeps me awake at night, you know the tanks and Bradley's, we have plans for those...but the big thing I look at is the environment and those type of things and how we are going to leave the country and we have extensive plans that we've worked out as we close these bases to leave it as much as it looked like when we got there so we're working on environmental, as I talked about, scrap metal and making sure we have processes in place either to get rid of it, donate it, or bring it back....We have large fuel locations that we'll have to drain those locations, have the environmental guys come in, take a look at that, make sure we're back to the proper environmental requirements, those kind of things...

Robin:  We've spoken often here to Anthony Cordesman, a well-known military analyst, and a couple of things he points out. He says we have to be careful because you don't want to put a lot of equipment in a neighboring country where someone gets the message that, let's say, they're going to be used as a springboard for an attack on Iran, so you have to be careful of that. But he's also told us in the past that one of the problems of a quick withdrawal is that you become a target; you're a convoy stretching from Baghdad to Kuwait. Is that something you have to think about? You know, putting so much equipment together in one place as you remove it?

Gen. Dowd:  It's always a concern, I follow the lead of the war fighter, for instance, the M.N.F.I. commander as the situation on the ground improves, he makes those kinds of decisions, and we'll move stuff.

Robin: This is the International Forces in Iraq leader?

Gen. Dowd: Yes, and, for instance, if something occurs, we have some more issues in more than one location, we may hold up and keep some of our forces out there but I follow the lead of the war fighter and we have couple of plans in there as these things start to occur and peace breaks out and things are going the right way, we'll start to move stuff out of there.

Robin: And what if it doesn't? Is that also factored in your thinking that what if a year from now it goes the other way, hopefully it will not, but if it does?

Gen. Dowd: We have done prudent planning on that, ma'am, taken a look at that. If it does, like you say, go the other way, that's in part of our analysis almost each and every day, looking at the intelligence, looking at the threat and we can respond if something like that occurs.

This program aired on August 3, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.


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