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U.S. Out Of Iraqi Cities In June 2009, (Mostly) Out Of Iraq in 2011, Will Commute To Work

The New York Times reports that the draft U.S.-Iraq deal has U.S. troops pulling out of Iraqi "cities and villages" by June 2009 and combat forces out by 2011. As predicted, the Bush administration is insisting that these timetables are not in fact timetables. Sayeth Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

"We have always said that the roles, missions and size of the American forces here, the coalition forces, was based on the conditions on the ground and what is needed."

And here, the operative "condition on the ground" is Nouri al-Maliki’s desire to retain power, and his mechanism for doing so is to insist on a staggered U.S. withdrawal to undercut his nationalistic rivals. So there’s your consistency right there. In truth, this is a capitulation to reality, the collapse of the main Iraq argument made by George Bush in his second term: timetables for withdrawal will kill you and your grandmother. For liberals, that’s two for the price of one!

But here’s a serious question raised by the out-of-the-cities move. How does that scramble Gen. Ray Odierno’s war planning? Odierno hasn’t been very specific about what he intends to do after he takes command in Iraq next month, but he has indicated a broad consistency with the population-protection strategy of his predecessor, Gen. David Petraeus. But, as any counterinsurgent will tell you, population-protection strategies can’t be pulled off when they’re implemented from massive bases past the city limits and not… within the cities where the people are. Counterinsurgents deride that idea, associated with Petraeus’s predecessor, Gen. George Casey — now the Army chief of staff — by calling that "commuting to work." So is Odierno going to have to be more like Casey than Petraeus?

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