Path to Drawdown

There are some 4,700 airmen in Iraq now and that number may actually ramp up “slightly” as the United States draws nearer to completing the pullout of its remaining troops and equipment from Iraq by year’s end, said Maj. Gen. Russell Handy, who heads the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq. “We are going to maintain an air capability in Iraq, so our curve might be just a little bit steeper than the land-component forces,” he told reporters Wednesday at the Pentagon. Air Forces Central flies roughly 500 sorties a day throughout the region, he said. “We will continue to fly missions out of Iraq for a while longer. Then at some point, we will begin to re-posture forces outside of the country to varying places within the region,” he explained. Handy declined to offer specific locations, but said “some of our regional partners are kind enough to allow us to fly out of airfields, whether they be expeditionary airfields or, in some cases, more permanent facilities.” After the drawdown, the State Department and US embassy in Baghdad still will conduct some flight operations on “portions of airfields” run by the Iraqis, said Handy. (Handy transcript)