Sorry to be late about this, but a few thoughts about the President’s Iraq plan:
1. This is a pretty conservative drawdown, with most of the troops staying in place until after the Iraqi National Elections next December. That’s the reason why McCain etc have supported it. And yes, 50,000 is a pretty robust residual force. But that force will be significantly reduced by 2011. (I imagine that a certain number of U.S. troops will remain to guard the embassy and to continue to train the Iraqi armed forces.
2. With only two combat brigades being withdrawn from Iraq in 2009, the U.S. will have as many, if not more, troops deployed downrange in Iraq and Afghanistan on January 20, 2010, as we did on the day Obama was inaugurated. The continued consequences for an over-extended Army will be considerable.
3. Despite the caveats above, this deal sets a clear path for U.S. withdrawal–although not a very surprising one, given December’s Status of Forces Agreement. The next milepost will come in June when, according to the SOFA, U.S. combat forces will be withdrawn from Iraq’s cities.
4. This decision was a no-brainer. The coming decision on Afghanistan-Pakistan is a mind-boggler. I’ll have more to say about that in my print column this week.