Clearly, we can't stay in Iraq forever, but the Obama plan runs counter to the security interests of both the United States and our Iraqi allies. As Mr. Boot notes, both the U.S. military and much of the Iraqi government favored a continuing American presence, for counter-terrorism operations; as a deterrent against Iranian meddling, and to ensure adequate training for Iraqi security forces.
Boot argues that the U.S. should re-open negotiations on our military presence as soon as the current withdrawal is complete. He believes we need at least 10, 000 troops in Iraq to handle the security and training mission--about half the number recommended by senior American military commanders earlier this year.
Unfortunately, prospects for a short-term U.S. return are virtually nil. Mr. Obama saw an opportunity to appease his base and fulfill a campaign promise, with little regard for the long-term security consequences. That raises another issue: will President Obama (or a Republican successor) be willing to send even larger numbers of U.S. troops back to Iraq in two or three years, when the security situation becomes untenable? Or will the Commander-in-Chief sit idly by and allow Iraq to become a puppet of Tehran?
It's a question worth posing at the next White House press conference (fat chance of that happening), and at the next GOP presidential candidates' debate.
ADDENDUM: Similar warnings from Professor Frederick Kagan (the intellectual father of the Iraq surge strategy) at the Weekly Standard.