IRAQ ROUNDUP….The annual report of the Pentagon’s Mental Health Advisory Team for the Iraq War found, among other things, that the length and duration of tours of duty in Iraq were starting to cause serious problems:

Multiple deployers reported higher acute stress than first-time deployers. Deployment length was related to higher rates of mental health problems and marital problems.

Suicides are up, marital conflicts are up, and 10% of soldiers and marines reported mistreating civilians when not necessary — an especially serious problem in a counterinsurgency mission designed to win hearts and minds. The report’s recommendation?

Extend the interval between deployments to 18-36 months or decrease deployment length to allow additional time for Soldiers to re-set following a one-year combat tour.

Hmmm. Decrease deployment length? The report was written last November, just before President Bush announced the surge, but was not released until Friday. Why the four-month delay?

Pentagon officials have not explained why the public release of the report was delayed, a move that kept the data out of the public debate as the Bush administration developed its plan to build up troops in Iraq and extend combat tours. Rear Adm. Richard R. Jeffries, a medical officer, told reporters on Friday that the timing was decided by civilian Pentagon officials.

I’ll bet it was. The last thing you need when you’re announcing longer deployments to support a surge that’s opposed by your commanders on the ground and virtually every military expert and the Iraq Study Group, is a report from within the military itself recommending that deployments be reduced. Hell, I’m surprised they released it at all.

In other Iraq news, the LA Times has finally decided to admit that the surge won’t work and it’s time to start planning for withdrawal. “We are not naive,” says the Times. “U.S. withdrawal, whether concluded next year or five years from now, entails grave risks. But so does U.S. occupation.” Indeed it does, and too few people seem to have figured that out.

Finally, in yet more Iraq-related news, the LAT also has a good piece about one of the worst-kept secrets of the Bush administration: the fact that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is not exactly a major fan of the surge:

“I believe Gates is on a completely different page than President Bush and Gen. Petraeus,” said a former senior Defense official who has supported the buildup. “He wants to see some results by summer, and if he doesn’t see those results, he seems willing to throw the towel in.”

Read the rest.

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