50,000 combat troops to remain in Iraq after “withdrawal”

Some US forces likely to remain in Iraq after President Barack Obama fulfills his pledge to “withdraw combat troops” would still have a combat role, unnamed Pentagon officials told the New York Times. Obama plans to announce his withdrawal strategy this week, and is expected to choose a compromise 19-month plan that leaves behind as many as 50,000 troops for clean-up and protection operations—potentially for years to come. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that a “residual” force would number in the tens of thousands. There are currently some 142,000 US troops in Iraq, including 14 combat brigades and thousands of support troops. Even after August 2010, as up to 50,000 would remain, including some combat units reassigned as “Advisory Training Brigades” or “Advisory Assistance Brigades,” the officials said. (NYT, Newsday, CSM, Feb. 26)

“What’s important about this is that we are on a path to ending the war,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in response to the revelation. But “I don’t know what the justification is for the presence of 50,000 troops in Iraq.” Pelosi added: “I do think that there’s a need for some, but I don’t think that all of them have to be in country. They can be platformed outside… I would think a third of that, maybe 20,000… 15 or 20,000.” (Raw Story, Feb. 26)

See our last post on Iraq, and the politics of withdrawal and escalation.

See also our special feature on Obama’s withdrawal plan.

  1. Obama: all troops out by 2011?
    From AlJazeera, Feb. 27:

    Barack Obama, the US president, has announced that US combat forces will leave Iraq by August 2010.

    The plan would pull combat troops out of Iraq 19 months after Obama took office in January this year, slightly longer than the 16 months he promised while on the campaign trail in 2008.

    “Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end,” Obama said on Friday in a speech at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina on Friday.

    Obama said that a transitional force of between 35,000 to 50,000 US troops would remain in the country after this deadline to help the “transition to full Iraqi responsibility”.

    The transitional force would train Iraqi security forces, conduct targeted “anti-terror” missions and protect civilian efforts and leave at the end of 2011 as mandated in a previous Iraq-US agreement known as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) forged by George Bush, Obama’s predecessor, he said.

    “I intend to remove all US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honour that they have earned,” he said.