When President Obama took office, US forces in Iraq numbered nearly 140,000, a ‘surge’ engineered by four-star General David Petraeus to stem the violence that erupted in the wake of the US invasion in 2003 that nearly took the country into a full-blown civil war. The administration pursued a policy of drawing troop levels down, bringing their current levels to about 50,000.
Now, the White House is proposing to draw those levels down even further to 3,000 to 4,000. The President had initially signaled a willingness to eliminate the US troop presence to zero by year’s end. The proposed remaining contingent to remain would be engaged in primarily training the newly restructured Iraqi army. This represents a marginal shift in policy, and I would say, a welcome one.
That the President is able to be flexible in terms of military planning in goals represents a marked improvement over the last administration’s ability to change policy in the face of evolving scenarios on the ground in Iraq. The deal is subject still to approval by the Iraqi government, and it’s not clear, as of yet, that their approval is guaranteed, though I would imagine that at the end of the negotiations, we’ll probably have those forces on the ground. Our goal should be to position Iraqi security forces so that they’re able to maintain peace and security within their own country without the involvement or backing of US forces. We’ve been in the country for over eight years now, and it’s time that we terminate our security engagement there in order to focus on reducing fiscal expenditures. We ought to attend to our own problems at home instead of an incessant focus on trying to recast the world in our own image.