The "end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq" declared by President Barack Obama on Aug. 31 was merely a sleight of hand.  --  Combat brigades in Iraq have been transmogrified into "advise and assist brigades," the number of which remaining in Iraq ranges from six to eleven, depending on which account you read.  --  Here's how it works, as reported by Kate Brannen of Army Times:  "The Army has three different standard brigade combat teams:  infantry, Stryker, and heavy.  To build an Advise and Assist Brigade, the Army selects one of these three and puts it through special training before deploying.  --  The Army selected brigade combat teams as the unit upon which to build advisory brigades partly because they would be able to retain their inherent capability to conduct offensive and defensive operations, according to the Army’s security force assistance field manual, which came out in May 2009.  This way, the brigade can shift the bulk of its operational focus from security force assistance to combat operations if necessary."[1]  --  In other words, the army is disguising combat brigades as trainers.  --  Brennan names these combat units that remain in Iraq:  the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, CO, the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division, based at Schofield Barracks, Wahiawa, HI, the 4th Brigade Combat Team and the 1st Heavy Brigade of the 1st Armored Division from Fort Bliss, TX, and four brigades from the 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, GA; there are others.  --  Brannen's article was based on the latest Army chart on global commitments, dated Aug. 17.  --  On Wednesday the Wall Street Journal called all this maneuvering and hand-waving a "major rebranding" of the U.S. mission in Iraq.[2]  --  "In June 2009, U.S. troops occupied 357 bases; fewer than 100 bases will remain after the transition," Nathan Hodge said....


1.

COMBAT BRIGADES IN IRAQ UNDER DIFFERENT NAME

By Kate Brannen

** 7 Advise and Assist Brigades, made up of troops from BCTs, still in Iraq **

Army Times

August 21, 2010

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2010/08/dn-brigades-stay-under-different-name-081910/


As the final convoy of the Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Lewis, Wash., entered Kuwait early Thursday, a different Stryker brigade remained in Iraq.

Soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division are deployed in Iraq as members of an Advise and Assist Brigade, the Army’s designation for brigades selected to conduct security force assistance.

So while the “last full U.S. combat brigade” have left Iraq, just under 50,000 soldiers from specially trained heavy, infantry and Stryker brigades will stay, as well as two combat aviation brigades.

Compared with the 49,000 soldiers in Iraq, there are close to 67,000 in Afghanistan and another 9,700 in Kuwait, according to the latest Army chart on global commitments dated Aug. 17.  Under an agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops must be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.

There are seven Advise and Assist Brigades in Iraq, as well as two additional National Guard infantry brigades “for security,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Craig Ratcliff.

Last year, the Army decided that rather than devote permanent force structure to the growing security force assistance mission, it would modify and augment existing brigades.

The Army has three different standard brigade combat teams:  infantry, Stryker and heavy.  To build an Advise and Assist Brigade, the Army selects one of these three and puts it through special training before deploying.

The Army selected brigade combat teams as the unit upon which to build advisory brigades partly because they would be able to retain their inherent capability to conduct offensive and defensive operations, according to the Army’s security force assistance field manual, which came out in May 2009.  This way, the brigade can shift the bulk of its operational focus from security force assistance to combat operations if necessary.

To prepare for their mission in Iraq, heavy, infantry and Stryker brigades receive specialized training that can include city management courses, civil affairs training and border patrol classes.

As far as equipment goes, the brigades either brought their gear with them or used equipment left behind that is typical to their type of brigade, said Ratcliff.

The first Advise and Assist Brigade -- the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division from Fort Bliss, Texas -- deployed last spring to Iraq, serving as a “proof of principle” for the advisory brigade concept.

Of the seven Advise and Assist Brigades still in Iraq, four are from the 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, Ga. The 1st Heavy Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, based at Fort Bliss, and the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colo., are also serving as Advise and Assist Brigades.

The 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division is based at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.  A combat medic from that unit was killed Aug. 15 when his Stryker combat vehicle was hit with grenades, according to press reports.

Two combat aviation brigades also remain in Iraq, according to Dan O’Boyle, Redstone Arsenal spokesman. Three more are deployed in Afghanistan, where there are currently no Advise and Assist Brigades.

2.

World news

AS COMBAT MISSION ENDS, A NEW U.S. OPERATION BEGINS

By Nathan Hodge

Wall Street Journal

September 1, 2010

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704421104575463810656347880.html


WASHINGTON --
The U.S. mission in Iraq is set to undergo a major rebranding on Wednesday, when Vice President Joe Biden presides over a change-of-command ceremony in Baghdad marking the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the campaign that began in March 2003, and the beginning of a military assistance mission called Operation New Dawn.

But while the formal combat phase may end, U.S. troops aren't all going away.  A substantial U.S. contingent will remain in Iraq to advise and train Iraqi security forces, and a civilian-led reconstruction effort will also continue.  That new mission is set to expire in December 2011.

Currently, just under 50,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, down from a peak of 166,300 at the height of the 2007 troop surge.  The military anticipates that force level will remain steady through the end of next summer.

A total of six "advise and assist" brigades will remain on the ground to back up Iraqi security forces and oversee their training.  The brigades will have their own intelligence and logistics components, and will offer communications support, medical evacuation, and air transportation to Iraqi units.

The brigades will also have some assets that the Iraqis lack, such as drones and robots.  They are also supposed to support Provincial Reconstruction Teams, the hybrid civilian-military teams that oversee development projects in the Iraqi hinterlands.

The U.S. military footprint is being substantially scaled back.  In June 2009, U.S. troops occupied 357 bases; fewer than 100 bases will remain after the transition.  In recent months, U.S. forces have moved millions of pieces of equipment from Iraq, a logistical operation that the military describes as the largest operation of its type since the buildup for World War II.

A mountain of military equipment will also remain in the country, however.  Some 1.2 million items of military equipment are needed to support the new mission.  Some equipment from the drawdown will be sent to troops fighting in Afghanistan; some will be handed over to Iraqi forces.

A substantial diplomatic mission will also stay in Iraq, staffing an embassy in Baghdad with hundreds of people, and civilian-led outposts in the provinces.

Continuing the U.S. diplomatic mission will require serious military-style support, from armored convoys to medical evacuation.  The State Department has already requested that the Defense Department provide it with some military equipment to support its mission, including Black Hawk helicopters and mine-resistant trucks.

The State Department is also considering hiring contractors to operate some equipment to defend against rocket and mortar attacks or clear roadside bombs.  The department expects that it may need as many as 6,000 or 7,000 security contractors in total to fully carry out its missions in Iraq.

James Danly, a former Army officer and Iraq veteran who is a contributing scholar at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said civilian agencies would be focused on "capacity building" -- coaching their Iraqi counterparts.

"There are functions the Iraqis just can't fulfill independently right now," Mr. Danly said.  "These range from technical things like running our equivalent of an FAA, to less-technical ones like forming a proper government."

Sectarian tensions continue in Iraq, and the country has seen a spate of bombings in recent weeks.  In a speech at the American Legion's annual conference in Milwaukee, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made clear that the mission in Iraq was far from over.

"This is not a time for premature victory parades or self-congratulation, even as we reflect with pride on what our troops and their Iraqi partners have accomplished," Mr. Gates said.  "We still have a job to do and responsibilities there."