President Obama gave a speech today, detailing his plans for withdrawing from Iraq. Our force level will be reduced to 35-50,000 by August 2010, and the rest will be removed by December 2011, as specified in the status-of-forces agreement that the Bush administration signed with Iraq. I have a couple of thoughts on the whole situation.
The time does appear right to start pulling troops from Iraq. Things are probably about as stable as they are going to get any time in the near future. We don't need to have the bulk of our ground combat power tied down in Iraq indefinitely, and there are the obvious financial considerations. On the other hand, I think the total withdrawal scheduled for 2011 is a bad idea, and I'm skeptical that it will actually happen. I'll be surprised if we don't retain some forces in the country. Given the expenditure of life, money and time in Iraq, we have a vested interest in it. I would prefer to see a situation where we kept a relatively small but significant military presence in Iraq as a threat to Iran, as a prop to the Iraqi government, and as a lever to exert influence over the country. We'll see what happens after we cut our force level. Obviously if the Iraqis don't want us there at all, we need to leave. But I don't think total withdrawal is the best option.