In recent weeks, various media outlets (including The New York Times) have anxiously suggested that the U.S. is accelerating its withdrawal schedule from Iraq, based on the improving security situation.
But that’s not quite accurate. In a Weekly Standard post last week, Bill Roggio found the current pace of redeployments mirrors a schedule outlined by General David Petraeus last year. As Mr. Roggio writes:
The graph shows that back in September 2007 the U.S. military planned to draw down to 15 combat brigades by July (this has happened) and targeted a drawdown to 12 combat brigades by the end of this year. The decision to draw down to 12 brigades will be made sometime in September. In March of 2009, the U.S. will decide to draw down to about 10 combat brigades.
The reality is that as the media focused on deriding General Petraeus's testimony on the state of the security situation in Iraq, they ignored the military's assessments on the planned posture of U.S. forces in Iraq in 2008 and beyond. Now that the U.S. is moving forward with its plans, their failure to note the timeline last year is characterized as an acceleration.
Following the draw down "horizon" outlined in the chart, the U.S. would have as few as five combat brigades in Iraq by 2011 or 2012, performing strategic and operational overwatch duties. At that time, the bulk of the security mission would be in the hands of Iraqi forces.
The Petraeus plan is based, of course, on conditions on the ground. If the security situation continues to improve, there might be a slight acceleration; if there’s a sudden uptick in violence, the draw down would be temporarily halted. It’s what you would expect from a leader like Petraeus, based on military judgement and experience.
We’d like to think that the draw down plan under a Democratic president would follow General Petraeus’s outline. But the party’s presumptive nominee, Mr. Obama, has made it clear that he prefers a fixed, arbitrary deadline for withdrawal, with no consideration for events on the ground.
John McCain said it best: when it comes to Iraq, Senator Obama made his mind up before embarking on that fact-finding trip. You’d think that wiser heads in the Democratic party would take their nominee aside and remind him of a salient fact: whoever occupies the White House when the troops finally come home gets credit for winning (or losing) the war.
Thanks to the surge, we are well on our way toward a final triumph in Iraq. But Mr. Obama and his advisers seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.