Another Sunday, Another Leaked Document in the UK Papers
The most astonishing piece of news on the wires at the moment is surely the leaked UK government document (full text here) showing that the British and U.S. governments are planning to reduce their troop levels in Iraq by more than half by mid-2006.
The story has been covered by Reuters and the Washington Post among others. It says the UK has already made "commitments" to "hand over" provinces in southern Iraq, while the US is planning to reduce troop numbers from around 160,000 to just 66,000.
As Juan Cole asks, what in the world is going on?
In practice, I think the withdrawal plan implies a willingness to turn the five northern provinces over to the Kurdish Peshmerga paramilitary, and the 9 southern provinces over to a combination of Shiite militias and new Iraqi government security forces (Interior Ministry gendarmes and regular army). And, I think this obviously desperate plan really risks damaging the integrity of Iraq as a nation-state. But, it is unlikely that for the US to remain at its present force levels would help maintain that integrity, anyway.This news comes just after the Italians have announced a troop withdrawal, and at the same time former CIA hitman and Iraq PM Iyad Allawi warns that Iraq is ready to disintegrate into civil war.
So what's the plan, guys? Cut and run?
And... how much longer can Tony Blair's government survive when every document marked Top Secret is fodder for an eager press?