A follow up on yesterday's post about my skepticism that we would be able to get out of Iraq by 2011 (and get all "combat" troops out by September 1 of this year):
- Tom Ricks reports that Gen. Odierno has formally requested keeping a combat brigade in Kirkuk beyond the September 1 deadline; but
- Laura Rozen says we should keep our eyes peeled for a Senate resolution whose "group of cosponsors will confirm that, at long last, the war over the war is over."
One way to square these two seemingly contradictory statements is if the bipartisan consensus Rozen implies exists reflects an agreement between Democrats and Republicans that the United States should use Iraq as a new military base in the Middle East like we used to use Saudi Arabia. Ricks's report strongly implies that the military is trying to force Obama to stay, although it's not clear whether Obama has any desire to take up a fight with them over leaving. And that's assuming he actually wants to leave.
Ricks writes cryptically that "this debate is just beginning. I expect that Obama actually is going to have to break his promises on Iraq and keep a fairly large force in Iraq, but of course that won't be the first time he's had to depart from his campaign rhetoric on this war." Finally, Ricks suggests
Let's open the betting: How many U.S. military personnel will be in Iraq four years from today--that is, Feb. 25, 2014? The person who guesses closest gets a signed copy of any of my books. My guess: 28,895. Not "combat" troops, of course! Goodness no. Just "advisory" troops who carry M-16s and call in airstrikes and such.
I have enough humility to duck a precise guess, but I would be very, very surprised if the number is zero. Americans don't give up military footholds unless we're chased out, a la Vietnam, Lebanon, or Saudi Arabia. We're still in Europe, for goodness' sake.