Pentagon considers staying in Iraq for 'decades'
Published: Monday May 21, 2007
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The Department of Defense is studying the possibility of "maintaining a core group of forces in Iraq, possibly for decades," reports National Public Radio.

"We have published no orders directing the planning for the overall withdrawal of forces," General Peter Pace, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate when asked if the Pentagon had any contingency plans in place for Iraq troop withdrawal.

"We do have ongoing replacements of forces," he continued, "and we do change the size of the force over time so that that system is available to either plus-up or draw down, but we have published no orders saying come up with a complete plan for total drawdown."

But, reports NPR, the Defense Department is discussing different scenarios for Iraq.

One scenario includes a "series of military installations [that] could be maintained around Iraq, with a total of total of 30,000 to 40,000 U.S. troops, for a long period of time maybe a few decades."

Under that plan, US forces would not be on patrol in Iraq, as they are now, says NPR, but they could continue to train Iraqi forces.

The Iraq installations would be part of the so-called "lilly pad" strategy that the US military has been developing since 2004. Gen. Pace, along with former Under Secretary for Policy at the Pentagon, Douglas Feith, and former Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was an architect of the strategy.

Bases in Iraq would be used to protect US interests in the area and keep Iran and Syria from interfering with Iraq's fledgling democracy, according to NPR.