"As it happens, and Shinseki would have known this, as many as 400,000 troops were in the pipeline for use during major conflict operations. But nowhere near that number was used. After major conflict operations ended, the number that remained in country settled around 150,000 to 160,000 (about half of Shinseki's guesstimate). Ultimately, commanders brought troop levels down to about 135,000 on the belief that a relatively lighter U.S. footprint would minimize the perception of occupation."
This is why Di Rita's commentary is disingenuous:
- Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and others dismissed out of hand the assertion that more troops would be needed, and were publicly dismissive of the assertion. Rumsfeld held to his position even after early evidence suggested that the U.S. did not have enough troops to occupy Iraq. In fact, Rumsfeld cancelled some planned deployments in the early months of occupation. It is true that Shinseki in effect saluted and kept his mouth shut, but he did so in an environment where dissent was punished. (Nonetheless, my view is that he should have fallen on his sword; that is the duty of dissenting senior officials.)
- Di Rita tries to deflect the well-founded charge that the U.S. did not deploy an adequate occupation force by claiming that 400,000 were in the pipeline and noting that the long-term troop deployment settled at 150,000 or so. Given the horrific violence and terrible losses suffered by occupation forces as well as Iraqi civilians, it is bizarre to imply that the war planners anticipated correctly the long term challenges that would confront the occupation force. As for the "pipeline", Rumsfeld was intent to close it.
- The risible suggestion that Shinseki did not invite the Secretary of Defense to attend or speak at his retirement ceremony ignores the fact no senior representative of the Secretary was present at the ceremony. Senior serving officers (old friends of mine) understood that Shinseki was being snubbed, as I surmise Shinseki understood as well.
- Finally, Shinseki's retirement (in June 2003) was announced more than a year in advance by the Defense Department (Di Rita was the head of Public Affairs at the time), making the Army Chief of Staff a lame duck even as he testified in February 2003 about troop needs in Iraq. In other words, Shinseki had already been amply tutored about Rumseld's tolerance for dissent. (Recall also that the Secretary of the Army Thomas White, who also challenged the Rumsfeld line and supported Shinseki's anticipation of troop requirements, was canned by Rumsfeld in May 2003.)