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 also our special feature on Obama’s withdrawal plan.