General Odierno and General Petraeus, President-elect Obama’s top commanders on Iraq, are recommending a timetable for withdrawal that would extend the American combat troops’ presence in Iraq. The generals’ timetable is longer than Mr. Obama’s campaign pledge of a 16-month combat troop withdrawal plan, which polls show 70 percent of Americans support.
According to the New York Times,
The plan drafted by General Odierno and General Petraeus was drawn up to meet the so-called status of forces agreement between the United States and Iraqi governments that calls for all American forces to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011 and all combat troops out of Iraqi cities by June 2009. The agreement sets forth both a shorter and longer timetable than Mr. Obama’s campaign pledge, with some combat forces out sooner but all forces out later.
A responsible, complete, and quick withdrawal from Iraq is necessary and possible. Our continued presence fuels the perception of a permanent occupation and alienates Iraqi citizens, who clearly have a strong desire for US troops to withdraw. Shoe-throwing journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi is being hailed as a hero in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, and thousands have taken to the streets to protest his detention. Setting a clear timeline for withdrawal will build greater trust with the Iraqi people and government and send a message that they must move forward on political reconciliation. Removing the military presence will also free up financial resources for domestic and security needs. As Larry Korb of the Center for American Progress has demonstrated, a safe, orderly withdrawal of combat troops can be realistically accomplished within 8 to 10 months, a much faster timeline. All of which throws into question why we’re talking about extending our military presence in Iraq even longer.
Those of us who want to see the war ended as quickly as possible will need to continue to be vocal as more people begin to pressure Mr. Obama to slow down the withdrawal. There’s always another reason to stay in Iraq for supporters of the war. When the going gets tough, it’s essential that we continue to have troops in Iraq. And when things are going well, it’s still essential that we continue to have troops in Iraq to ensure it stays that way.
Here are a few of the ever-changing justifications for staying in Iraq over the years, starting with the newest by Gen. Odierno.
Petraeus and Crocker repeated warnings that al-Qaeda in Iraq, while weakened, remains a threat. But they described an ongoing U.S. troop presence as necessary largely because no one is certain that security gains will endure if U.S. forces leave. The consequences of withdrawal, Crocker said, "could be grave.