This morning’s Reuters piece on Mosul and whether U.S. forces will pull out of Iraqi cities by July 1 is an example of what happens to journalism when reporters are too thin on the ground.
Take the lead, for example:
The top U.S. commander in Iraq said on Friday that U.S. combat forces could be able to leave the violence-torn city of Mosul by a June 30 deadline for withdrawing American combat brigades from Iraqi cities.
I have to assume that David Morgan, who wrote the story, has never been to Mosul. Had he visited the city, he would know that FOB Marez, to which U.S. troops will supposedly withdraw from their COPs, is actually within city limits, and if American units have to “commute to work” after June 30, it isn’t all that far, contrary to what the story suggests.
Then there’s this:
About 20 percent of U.S. forces, who are not considered combat troops, would remain in the cities after July 1 to advise and support Iraqi security forces.
Yeah, right. Talk to any PAO in Baghdad and he will freely admit that Americans will stay in Baghdad’s central districts even after July 1, albeit in FOBs that will be “downgraded” into JSSs. For example, the company from the 82nd Airborne that currently mans JSS Babil will simply relocate to Zafraniya. Over the following months they will slowly pull out further away from the city centre, but even then it won’t be all the way to super-bases like Liberty, but rather to the outer suburbs.
To say that these forces will be about 20 percent of American troops in Iraq is probably correct, but it’s misleading, since the number of actual trigger-pullers has never exceeded that percentage. That they are “not considered combat troops” is another chunk of spin that the reporter should’ve challenged. Whatever they are “considered” is not what they actually are, which is combat troops. In other words, the above doesn’t mean that 80 percent of American troops now in Baghdad will withdraw.
And this is what really gets my goat:
[…] Odierno warned that Iraq will likely see residual violence from ‘insurgent elements’ for up to 15 years.
To call 140 Iraqis killed in two days “residual violence” is not only supremely arrogant, it’s irresponsible. It suggests that once the Americans leave, whatever bloodshed happens will not be noteworthy, it will just be 15 years of another forgotten war.
[UPDATE: Bloggers don’t get it either.]