Washington's been buzzing all day about Thom Shanker's New York Times story in which Abdul Qadir, the Iraqi defense minister, said that his country would not be ready to take responsibility for its internal and border security until 2012 and 2018, respectively. Such a prolonged U.S. presence in Iraq would go far beyond anything previously floated on the American side—unless, or course, you count John McCain saying he'd be happy to have U.S. troops in Iraq for the next 100 years... no, 1,000 years!... no, make that a million years!!
Responding to Qadir's claims, the Center for American Progress, a progressive DC think tank, released a revised budget projection for U.S. involvement in Iraq. Including monies already appropriated, it shows that expenditures could exceed $1 trillion by 2018, assuming a troop level of 70,000—less than half the current number.
Beyond costs, though, the major drawbacks to sticking around may simply be that it would work against our larger interests. Earlier this afternoon, Larry Korb, a former Reagan-era assistant secretary of defense, now a senior fellow at CAP, explained the reasons why in a conference call with reporters:
We're increasing the dependence of the Iraqis on us because, obviously, since the president has agreed we might stay for 10 more years, they feel no pressure to take over security responsibilities or to make the hard political choices that are necessary for reconciliation. It also reinforces the perception, in particular among Al Qaeda and other groups in the Middle East, that we are an occupying power and it enhances, if you will, their narrative