American forces are cleaning out a “very, very big garage” in its drawdown in Iraq, the deputy commander of Multinational Corps Iraq said today.
Air Force Maj. Gen. James P. Hunt, during a videoconference from Baghdad with Pentagon reporters, said moving equipment out of Iraq is like a giant assessment and cleaning.
There are 125,000 American servicemembers in Iraq, down from a peak of roughly 180,000. That number is to remain constant through the Iraqi elections in January. After that, the number of U.S. troops is to drop to 50,000 by August 2010, with all American forces out of the country by the end of 2011.
But the drawdown of U.S. forces already has begun with equipment, Hunt said. “We’re going to do it just like you do back home when you have to empty out your garage,” he said.
The command already has closed more than 200 bases and facilities and processed almost 50,000 pieces of equipment.
When cleaning the garage, people take the cars out and put everything on the driveway just to see what they have, Hunt said. “And that’s what we’re doing here,” he said. “We essentially have done an inventory, and we have been amazed at how much stuff has gathered in six years.”
The units are looking at what things they have and deciding what they will need through the end of 2011. “They’re packing it up, and they’re shipping it out. And we are doing that on a daily basis,” he said. “Essentially every base in Iraq is going through their garage and cleaning out what they’ve got so that they only have the mission- essential things left.”
As the last troops withdraw from the country, the mission-essential materials will leave with them. “So this is a major science-of-war operation,” he said. “It’s a very, very big garage.”
Another sign of the withdrawal was the Sept. 17 closure of the Camp Bucca internment center in southern Iraq, Hunt said.
“As part of that closure and in accordance with our security agreement, we have released almost 6,000 detainees and transferred just under 1,400 detainees to Iraq since January 2009,” he said. “We have worked closely with the government of Iraq to ensure these releases and transfers were done in a safe and orderly manner.”