Troop reduction will not immediately impact Hawaii-based military

Farideh Farhi
Farideh Farhi

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Hawaii's troop deployment will not be immediately affected by President George Bush's pledge Tuesday morning to bring 8,000 troops home by next February.

The 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks is still scheduled to deploy at the end of the year. They're still working out exact numbers, but it will be thousands of soldiers. But the long-term direction of troops in the Middle East could be left up to the next administration.

U.S. troops stationed in Hawaii play a major role in Iraq and Afghanistan. They're part of a military strategy to win the war in the Middle East.

President Bush says progress is being made in Iraq, adding Iraqi troops are "becoming increasingly capable of leading and winning the fight." That's the reason he gives for bringing 8,000 troops home by early next year.

But Middle East expert Farideh Farhi says, politics may be involved.

"I guess you can look at it as his response to political pressures both in Washington and Baghdad to reduce American presence," said Farhi, who is a political science professor specializing in Middle East politics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

But even with the reduction, 138,000 military members will remain in Iraq, 3,000 more than before the pre-surge increase.

"The numbers essentially suggest that this is a response to the kind of pressures that are being posed on the administration to do something in relationship to Iraq," said Farhi. "Particularly given the fact that the administration itself is constantly reminding us that the security situation has improved."

So this troop reduction comes at a time when his administration is nearing its end, and passing the torch.

"I actually see it as President Bush making a decision in terms of standing his ground and leaving major decisions to the next administration," said Farhi. "The numbers essentially suggest to me that it's not going to make it easy for the next person coming in."

Senator McCain praised President Bush's move, saying this is what success can look like.

Senator Obama, on the other hand, reinforced his position of pulling troops completely out of Iraq within 16 months, if he's elected.