Perspective: The logistics of leaving
When it comes, the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and the dismantling of the vast American presence here promises to be as risky and unpredictable as the past four years of war.
Political and public demand for a quick withdrawal is rising. But nothing about withdrawal will be quick.
The 20 ground combat brigades deployed in Iraq would fill 10,000 flatbed trucks and take a year to move, logistics experts said. A full withdrawal, shipping home some 200,000 Americans and thousands of tons of equipment, dismantling dozens of American bases and disposing of tons of accumulated toxic waste, would take 20 months or longer, they estimate.
Yet the Bush administration, long intent on avoiding what it once called a "cut and run" retreat from Iraq, has done little to lay the groundwork for withdrawal, officials here said.
"We don't have the plan in detail yet. We're seriously engaged in trying to figure this out," said Marine Brig. Gen. Gray Payne, director of the U.S. Central Command's logistics operations center.
Even with the benefit of a detailed plan, Payne said, "this is going to be an enormous challenge."
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