In April of this year, it was announced that all active duty soldiers currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan would see their one-year tours extended to 15 months.
Affecting more than 100,000 soldiers, it was the longest combat tour since World War II and it meant that soldiers would spend more time deployed than at home with their families.
While some say the surge has worked militarily with Sunni tribes turning on al-Qaeda and a decrease of suicide bombings in Baghdad, others say that it will ultimately make no difference in the Sunni v Shia struggle which is by no means settled.
An independent report issued this week said that "Significant reductions, consolidations and realignments would appear to be possible and prudent," General James Jones said that the Iraqi security forces need another 12 to 18 months before they are able to take control of their country. It will also take two years to make the Iraqis self sufficient with regard to logistics and supply. The 20-member panel comprised mostly of retired senior military and police officers, said the massive deployment of U.S. forces and sprawl of U.S.-run facilities in and around Baghdad has given Iraqis the impression that Americans are an occupying, permanent force. The committee also recommended that the Iraqi police force should be scrapped and rebuilt (a fact the EB regulars already knew).
General Petraeus is expected to report that the surge strategy is working and given "enough time" could bring a relative peace. The problem is, no one knows how much time is needed and what the end state will look like.
In any case, the surge cannot be extended beyond next spring without extending tours to eighteen months. So, ready or not, it looks like the drawdown will begin next spring with the Iraqis assuming more responsibilities while the US provides training, support and logistics. As we reduce our presence, once again we will face the problem of force protection. Like the British in Basra palace, the malcontents will concentrate on our supply units with the aim of driving us out of the country. When that happens, it will be the British turn at schadenfreude as our troops become the sitting ducks we so recently mocked.