A soldier from the 101st Airborne Division enjoys a drumstick in eastern Afghanistan’s Pech Valley on Thanksgiving Day 2010. (Andrea Bruce — The Washington Post)

This year, the Defense Department plans to deliver about 168,000 pounds of turkey – including roughly 6,000 whole birds – to troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait. Also being delivered: 37,800 pounds of stuffing, 43,560 pounds of sweet potatoes and 34,560 pies, plus some other dishes.

But for the military’s logisticians, the ultimate challenge this year has been pinning down how many meals to send to Iraq, as Iraqi and American officials negotiated over the size of the U.S. troop presence there.

Those talks collapsed in October, leading to the decision to pull out virtually all U.S. troops by Dec. 31. Planning for the Thanksgiving meal typically begins during the summer.

“We were very concerned about what number to use,” said Rich Faso of the Defense Logistics Agency.

Whether by “sheer genius or a little bit of luck,” Faso said, DLA feels pretty good about its planning for Iraq, where an estimated 20,000 troops still remain, not counting the tens of thousands of contractors and Defense Department civilian employees.

Faso said that he suspects there may be a little left over after Thanksgiving, but, as with a holiday meal at home, it’s always better to overestimate than underestimate.

“There’s never been a soldier who has complained about an additional turkey meal sometime after Thanksgiving,” he said.

After that, the Defense Department already has a recipient ready to make use of the leftovers.

Officials with the State Department, which is taking over operations in Iraq come the end of the year, plan on using the same menus as their military counterparts. 

Bon appetit.