The reality here is that the troops are likely to come home with all deliberate speed, but that the exact timetable will depend on the sort of boring how-do-we-move-that-truck, and what’s-the-rotation-schedule logistics that exist well beyond the realm of actual strategic policy. People in the military familiar with the process tell me that we should be down to about 30,000 troops in four years.
The bullet-point version of the plan is:
• Sen. Obama plans to withdraw combat brigades from Iraq over the period of about 16 months. Cf. above.
• By my count that would leave something like 50,000 to 80,000 U. S. troops in Iraq.
• The remaining force would engage in some combat operations. Not sure how this would work out.
• There’s nothing in the op-ed about removing that force.
• At least 10,000 (possibly more) of those withdrawn from Iraq would be re-deployed to Afghanistan.
Juan Cole, as if for the first time, has noticed the same thing, i.e. that Sen. Obama does not plan a complete withdrawal of our forces from Iraq and isn’t particularly pleased with it:
That suggestion is not plausible for several reasons. If there is only a small force in the country, who will rescue them if their helicopter gets shot down or they are ambushed and besieged? Then, how would a small American unit be any good against a terrorist organization operating in remote parts of Sunni Iraq? They don’t know Arabic, can’t hope for really good intelligence from locals, etc. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to let the Special Police Commandos of the Iraqi Interior Ministry take care of this sort of thing?
President Obama is extremely unlikely to withdraw completely from Iraq however well that would poll and however well it would play in some segments of his base. The reasons aren’t logistic, tactical, or strategic but political: he can’t afford the risk of things going seriously wrong in Iraq after he’s withdrawn our forces from the country. Better to take the heat for not withdrawing from Iraq than the heat for his policy taking things badly awry. He can always blame the former on the mess his predecessor left.
There’s one other odd thing about Sen. Obama’s plan. His domestic policy plan is based at least in part on funding from the proceeds from a withdrawal dividend. I think it’s pretty unlikely that he’s going to achieve 100% savings by withdrawing 65% of the troops and then moving something upwards of 10,000 of them to Afghanistan (where the costs of maintaining them are higher). Perhaps if he’s very careful no one will notice that he’s spending the same money several times.