Michael Yon (see my sidebar links) is predicting major problems in Afganistan in the spring fueled by the poppies and dope runners. Might need to shore that front up. Let's say we double the US troop levels there to ~40K to help tamp down any potential issues.
That still leaves us with a lot of boots sitting around watching Deal or No Deal when there's still a bunch of terrorists afoot in the world. We're also left with a navy that's all dressed up with no party to go to until (Chavez or the PRC make their moves).
I propose the following course of action. Its a bold stroke that will kill many birds with one stone and dissuade the terrorists that pulling out of Iraq is necessarily a sign of weakness (even though we all know that's exactly what it is).
REDEPLOY 1/3 OF REMAINING TROOPS TO WESTERN ETHIOPIA
REDEPLOY 1/3 OF REMAINING TROOPS TO EASTERN ETHIOPIA
Ethiopia you say? Yep Ethiopia. It shouldn't be too hard to get the Ethiopians on board for this. Refugees, decades of crunching poverty, surreal wars with Eritria, etc should make the Ethiopian government quite amenable if we provide suitable bribes in the form of some decent humanitarian aid delivered in a lax enough manner that the kleptocrats can loot half of it for themselves. If Eritria wants in on the deal, that would be great too. They got ports that could be useful. The minimum they need to give is overflight rights. We can issue them an ultimatum - back our play or we'll just do it anyway and there won't be any cash-olla for you. They'll play.
Why Ethiopia? Look at a map. Ethiopia is strategically located between Sudan and Somalia. Naval support in the Red Sea and gulf of Aden can operate under cover of conducting anti-piracy operations. There has been a pernicious level of actual piracy in the region lately and this makes a perfectly good excuse for being there.
Several good things are going to happen as a result of this:
- Some pirates get dead
- The Sudanese govt gets real nervous and tones down the Darfur thing
- The Islamists in Somalia get real nervous
- Freelancer jihadis in Iraq follow us (the real goal here)
As freelancers leave Iraq, Iraqi's problems reduce accordingly. With the western province leaders on board now, some won't even make it to the border. The Saudis will sweep up some crossing the border. The Yemanis will get some, and the US Navy will get even more while doing their "anti-piracy" operations. Get'em on the move and they'll be more vulnerable than in the urban Baghdad setting.