American forces in Iraq have devoted a full sixth of their manpower to a task one commander compares to moving the entire population of Alaska across the world—with all their stuff. The military, in the biggest movement of personnel and material in over 40 years, is dismantling some 300 bases and shipping out over a million pieces of equipment, all while keeping the 124,000 troops still in the country supplied and being targeted by insurgents.
Much equipment is being sent straight to Afghanistan, while much more—up to a limit of $15 million per base—is being left to the Iraqis. Large-scale troop withdrawals aren't scheduled to start until after Iraq's January elections at the earliest, but planners say they can't afford to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. "You can’t wait for some big ‘Aha!’ moment,” one commander tells the New York Times. “That does not give you flexibility. That just puts you in a box.”