The Bush administration is quietly on track to nearly double the number of combat troops in Iraq this year, an analysis of Pentagon deployment orders showed Monday.But the Pentagon routinely overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades. And when they do, it always produces a temporary increase of troop levels that lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a month or two. And since the surge has increased the base number of troops, it's likely that the temporary increase this time around will be larger than past ones.
....The actions could boost the number of combat soldiers from 52,500 in early January to as many as 98,000 by the end of this year if the Pentagon overlaps arriving and departing combat brigades.
Separately, when additional support troops are included in this second troop increase, the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq could increase from 162,000 now to more than 200,000 a record-high number by the end of the year.
In other words, I don't quite get the fuss. This might be news if Powell had some evidence that the overlap period was going to be longer than usual or, even worse, that troops currently in Iraq weren't going to come home at all. But there's nothing like that at all. It seems like it's going to be the same kind of short-lived enlargement that we've seen several times in the past.
It's unwise to blindly accept explanations from the Pentagon at face value, but when they say that 20 brigades is 20 brigades and the year-end swell is due to "temporary increases that typically occur during the crossover period," that actually seems pretty plausible. Count me as a skeptic on the "secret second surge" theory until I hear more about it.