President Obama delivered his Iraq withdrawal address at Camp Lejuene today:
1. The most important part is the 2011 total withdrawal. Obama just made the SOFA into something vague and not-that-meaningful: 2011 just became a hard stop, I think. When presidents lay down markers like that, they don't easily walk away from them. It's now what Iraqi politicians described it as: the American Withdrawal of Forces Agreement. I fear Iraqi domestic political convenience just became American strategic reality. This converts the SOFA from a framework for a long-term strategic partnership to a guarantee of withdrawal. 2. The numbers seem to flow like this. Phase 1: 2009 withdrawals are small, maybe 20-25K max if we support Odierno; phase 2: January 1, 2010 to August 31, 2010 accelerates to 75 to 90K within 9 months, depending on size of residual force; phase 3: August 31, 2010 to December 31, 2011 is the final 35 to 50K. 3. The distinction between phases 2 and 3 isn't that great and certainly isn't very long. Slight pause in pace of withdrawal that probably won't be that apparent to Iraqis. 4. This is strategy by timetable rather than timetable by strategy.
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