2,171 days have passed since the Iraq War began.
Today, President Obama announced that American combat operations will effectively end 549 days from now:
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — President Obama unveiled e plans to pull most troops from Iraq by August 2010 before an audience of Marines and their families at one of the nation’s most storied military bases on Friday after receiving support from an unlikely quarter — Senator John McCain, the Republican he beat in last year’s election.
Mr. McCain and other Republicans emerged from a meeting with Mr. Obama at the White House on Thursday evening reassured that the president’s withdrawal plan is responsible and reasonable. After securing assurances from Mr. Obama that he would reconsider his plans if violence increases, Mr. McCain and the Republicans expressed cautious support.
Speaking on the Senate floor on Friday before the president’s speech, Mr. McCain credited the opportunity to pull troops out to the surge of troops that President George W. Bush ordered two years ago with Mr. McCain’s support and he cautioned that Iraq remains fragile so Mr. Obama should stay flexible and listen to military commanders.
“With these factors in mind, I believe the president’s withdrawal plan is a reasonable one,” Mr. McCain said. “Given the gains in Iraq and the requirements to send additional troops to Afghanistan, together with the significant number of troops that will remain in Iraq and the president’s willingness to reassess based on conditions on the ground, I am cautiously optimistic that the plan as laid out by the president can lead to success.”
The convergence of Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain on Iraq would have seemed highly improbable just a few months ago, when they clashed sharply on the future of the American mission there. Mr. McCain accused Mr. Obama of being naïve and opposed his withdrawal plans. At one point, Mr. McCain said Mr. Obama “would rather lose a war than lose a campaign.”
In his remarks at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Mr. Obama said, “Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.
Obama also provided an answer to my earlier question regarding what would happen with the 50,000 member “residual force” that would be left behind after August 2010:
After August 2010, the Obama plan will leave behind 35,000 to 50,000 of the 142,000 American troops now in Iraq to advise and train Iraqi security forces, conduct discrete counterterrorism missions and protect American civilian and military personnel working in the country, including State Department reconstruction teams.
The residual troops, which the Obama administration is calling a “transition force,” will remain only through December 2011, when a strategic agreement negotiated by President George W. Bush before he left office mandates the withdrawal of all American troops.
So, there you have it.
By December 31, 2011 all American troops will be out of Iraq.
Obama’s decision is the correct one. At this point, it’s fairly clear that there is no need for 142,000 American soldiers to be in Iraq. There is no major combat, and even the insurgency seems to have quieted down. We’re spending vast amounts of money on a deployment with no clear purpose anymore.
Whether Iraq ends up being seen as a success is for history to decide. Given the amount of blood, treasure, and money we’ve expended there though, and the violence that the war itself did to American politics and the Constitution, I’ve honestly got to say that I don’t think it was worth it regardless of whether it was a “success” or not.