U.S. military officials said Saturday that overall American troop levels in Iraq would drop by about 5,000 next month when a combat brigade completed its withdrawal.From the start, the surge was primarily aimed at securing Baghdad. A few extra troops were sent to other regions, but the vast majority were sent to Baghdad, where troop concentrations were roughly doubled.
The U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry, which has been operating primarily in the country's volatile eastern Diyala province, will be the first of five brigades to depart Iraq without being replaced over the next several months, officials confirmed.
....On Tuesday, troops from the Army's 4th Striker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, stationed near Baghdad, will begin to deploy to the region and continue to assist Iraqi forces and residents to secure the province, Smith said.
U.S. officials said the redeployment would not lessen troop levels in Diyala, but it would spread American forces thinner by sending some in Baghdad northeast to the region.
And it worked. In the Sunni provinces surrounding the capital, the decline in violence seems to have been due more to the various Sunni "awakenings" than to the surge. But in Baghdad itself, the surge seems to have genuinely been, if not the only factor, certainly a major component in reducing violence. For that reason, I always figured that when the first drawdown of the surge troops began, Petraeus would do everything he could to keep troop levels high in the capital even at the risk of reducing them elsewhere. But apparently not. Although the initial reduction is technically in Diyala province, the troop levels there won't decrease because they're going to be replaced by troops from Baghdad.
What does this mean? That the success in Diyala is more tenuous than anyone thinks? That the success in Baghdad is more robust than anyone thinks? I'm not sure, but if this is really what it seems then nearly a third of the original Baghdad surge is being redeployed. Stay tuned to see how that works out.