Chatter builds around the suggestion that security control of Basra might be handed over in early 2007. We’ve had quite a lot of this stuff before, tales that significant reductions in force might occur in six months’ time (one Friedman) and more recently announcements that such-and-such a province has been “handed over”.
What we haven’t had is beef. “Handing over security control” of a province appears to entail a flag-swap outside some prominent building and a new job title for the local Sadrist, Fadhila or SCIRI boss. But so far, none of the handovers have involved the withdrawal of even one single soldier. This time, Des Browne has suggested that troop numbers might be lower “by thousands” at the end of 2007.
There may be some evidence that this has a slightly higher reality content than past promises. I hear that the Shaibah logistic base outside Basra is going to close “early in 2007” with the services and installations being transferred to the RAF’s Basra Air Station. That, to me, sounds like clearing the decks – reducing the number of bases and perhaps the number of logistics personnel, whilst concentrating around the APOD (Aerial Point of Departure).