Accession Number:



The Drawdown Asymmetry: Why Ground Forces Will Depart Iraq but Air Forces Will Stay

Descriptive Note:

Journal article

Corporate Author:


Personal Author(s):

Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



While many elements of combat power have increased in and around Iraq over the past year -- including sea, air, and space power -- both public officials and members of the media have described the increase in military force almost exclusively in terms of major ground units. The most common description of the surge highlights the increase in brigade combat teams BCT from 15 to 20. The current debate over Iraq strategy centers on the questions of when, and how rapidly, forces will be reduced in Iraq, and it continues to revolve around major ground units. It seems likely that this trend will continue. Discussions of when and how the U.S. Army BCTs will leave Iraq will dominate the discourse about the coalitions future in Iraq. For all of the discussion about force levels and combat units in Iraq, it is surprising that one important aspect of the coming drawdown has not been discussed widely -- until now. While major ground units will soon begin leaving without replacement, air units in the region cannot do so. Air forces must stay behind to protect and support the coalition forces that remain, particularly the Armys dispersed transition teams -- the key link to successful training for Iraqi forces. These teams typically consist of 11-15 members, each of whom brings key specialties to the team. Transition teams embed within their assigned Iraqi unit, and their role is to advise, coach, and mentor these units. Air forces must also control and protect the sovereign airspace over Iraq, as the Iraqi air force is many years away from being able to do this. Over time, this will manifest itself in a drawdown asymmetry that will have weighty implications for coalition policy in Iraq as well as for the long-term health of the organizations tasked to provide these air forces, chiefly the U.S. Air Force. Ultimately, the consequences may manifest themselves in such a way that the term drawdown asymmetry will become a key element of the language used to discuss Iraq strategy.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Unconventional Warfare

Distribution Statement: