Leaving Iraq

The Atlantic recently asked a group of foreign-policy authorities about the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq
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Will a significant U.S. troop presence (50,000 or more) still be in Iraq five years from now?
73% No

“No. I doubt the Iraqi leadership will tolerate it, and I am sure the American public will not. 'Should' they be there five years from now? Yes, if we are going to try to stabilize the situation, but I doubt it will happen.”

“No, since you insist, but there are too many variables to make an informed guess.”

“No, there is no political stomach for this.”

“No. Slowly, too slowly I believe, the American public and the next administration will realize that the continued presence of American troops in Iraq does not make Iraq more secure and, even more disturbing, makes us party to a sectarian conflict where neither side adheres to the core values of American society. The American military senior leadership and the administration is being corrupted and compromised by the political necessity of ignoring, explaining away and, too often, simply lying about the atrocities being committed in Iraq in the name of 'democracy.' The real question is not whether the withdrawal of American troops will be followed by increased 'sectarian warfare, growing violence or a slide toward chaos'—it will—but that will also happen if we stay. We began with a fatally flawed war plan that did not look beyond the end of "major combat operations" and then compounded this error with arrogance and faith-based intelligence and leadership that refused to adapt to the realities on the ground as events spiraled in a very different direction than Washington had predicted. The opportunities lost in 2003-2004 cannot be recovered by sacrificing another 3000 soldiers, surging 30,000 soldiers or keeping 50,000 soldiers in Iraq for five years. The real question is how long will it take to realize that prolonging our presence, at any level, is only increasing the damage to our vital military and political institutions and America's reputation and leadership in the world.”

“No, this house of cards will have collapsed well within the next five years.”

“No. At some point in the next five years, some political force (or coalition) will gain sufficient traction to control the country and will not want such a sizeable US presence.”

“No. The United States is likely to have only a small presence (under 10,000) in Iraq in five years, consisting mostly of advisers and trainers of Iraqi forces and police.”

“No. Even if a significant number of troops remain at the end of the Bush presidency, the next president will invariably decide to withdraw most if not all in short order.”

“A presence of 50,000 troops will not be in Iraq five years from now. However, a presence of around 20,000 or so troops very well may be, and many others will be in neighboring states for training and support missions.”

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