Obama’s Iraq Drawdown a Virtual Impossibility

Gen. Odierno Still Claims Pullout 'On Track'

President Obama initially promised that the Guantanamo detention facility would be closed in January of 2010. Though it was obvious by May of 2009 the deadline would not be met, officials didn’t admit that fact until mid-November. This is the administration’s way of doing things, to pretend deadlines are “on track” until the last possible minute.

So to with the August Iraq drawdown pledge. The Obama Administration has promised that by August of this year, there will be only 50,000 “non-combat” troops left in Iraq. Since making that promise 15 months ago, only a handful of troops have left, and 94,000 US troops are still there, still engaging in combat missions.

After Iraq’s December election became a January election and finally a March 7 election, it was clear the August deadline would not be met. Privately officials have conceded that the drawdown is being “reconsidered,” in as much as it is virtually impossible now.

But what the Obama Administration talks about privately and its official public stance are often two different things, evidenced today by the claim from US commander in Iraq Gen. Ray Odierno that the drawdown is “on track” and that he is fully committed to meeting the deadline.

The idea that the Obama Administration is even capable of removing 44,000 troops in the next 15 weeks is patently absurd, as he hasn’t managed to remove that many troops in his first 16 months, and the security situation has gotten dramatically worse in that time.

Whereas in early 2009 the situation was comparatively stable, sectarian tensions are on the rise in the wake of a bitterly disputed election, and massive attacks are happening with alarming regularity.

Though the Pentagon insists that it can hypothetically remove 25,000 troops in 4 weeks, and that therefore the 44,000 troops could be removed in this timetable, there is no indication that such an exodus could be accomplished in the face of growing attacks, and despite the claim from some military officials that missing the deadline ‘hasn’t even been discussed’ yet, there is no indication that they are even attempting to do so.

Privately, officials are suggesting that such an attempt would be dangerous, with large numbers of troops being ferried in convoys to the airport providing inviting targets for the rejuvenated insurgency. Publicly, they are unlikely to admit this until the rapidly approaching deadline forces them to.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.