Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.
Of course, then President Obama follows this sentence with a detailed description of American military actions in Iraq after August 31, 2010. It is the standard residual force operation we have discussed here on Open Left since our inception, and is anything but an end to the American military presence in Iraq after August 2010:
After we remove our combat brigades, our mission will change from combat to supporting the Iraqi government and its Security Forces as they take the absolute lead in securing their country. As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq . Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops.
But the important departure comes next, when President Obama pledges that this residual force will itself be continually decreasing in size, and eventually reach zero troops by the end of 2011:
Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.
This is what I have been waiting for: a commitment to end the residual force operation by the close of 2011.
This is huge for no residual forces proponents. Now that President Obama has made this pledge, in public, it will be difficult for him to go back on it. This is especially the case since turning back on a promise with a deadline of December 31st, 2011, means violating a pledge during 2012--the year President Obama will be running for re-election. Anti-war proponents need to be prepared to raise holy hell during 2012 if this promise is not kept.
It is frustrating that it took the Iraqi government, rather than internal anti-war pressure, to finally secure a no residual troop promise from the American government (and they actually succeeded in wringing it out of the Bush administration, something Democrats were entirely unable to achieve). Still, as someone who has opposed the Iraq war for more than six years, and who been has writing about the need for no residual American military forces in Iraq for more than two years, any promise of no residual forces from the American government, backed up by a binding, public document like the Status of Forces Agreement, it an extremely welcome development no matter how it was secured.
The Iraq war is going to end. No residual troops after 2011.