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Will US troops be out of Iraq by the end of 2011?

Adm. Mike Mullin of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed with the media the need for Iraqi policymakers to decide whether or not they want a full withdraw of US troops by the end of 2011, according to the New York Times.  The article does a great job of hitting on the implications:

Since the agreement, violence has decreased significantly, and Iraqi security forces have taken over patrolling the streets. But the Iraqis still lack the capacity to defend their borders and airspace, and they rely heavily on the American forces for intelligence sharing and training.

Independent military analysts and officials of both countries believe that if all American forces leave as scheduled, it could threaten security in Iraq, where there are daily explosions and where ethnic tensions remain high. A continued American military presence could also serve as a counterbalance to Iran, which has significant influence here.

Complicating matters are plans for the State Department to have a huge presence in Iraq after the end of this year. There are many questions among policymakers in Washington about whether the State Department can operate here without the logistical support and protection of the American military. The State Department is planning to roughly double its size in Iraq, to about 16,000 people, and it will require an army of private contractors to protect its personnel.

I think the smart money has to be on a continued American military presence after 2011, however it seems that the level of that presence really may be determined by the Iraqis.

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