Is the Iraq Withdrawal Slowing Down?

We’re supposed to be well on our way to getting out of Iraq, but the Guardian reports that the drawdown of American troops has hit a roadbump thanks to the continuing disarray following the March parliamentary elections:

The White House is likely to delay the withdrawal of the first large phase of combat troops from Iraq for at least a month after escalating bloodshed and political instability in the country. General Ray Odierno, the US commander, had been due to give the order within 60 days of the general election held in Iraq on 7 March, when the cross-sectarian candidate Ayad Allawi edged out the incumbent leader, Nouri al-Maliki.

….The withdrawal order is eagerly awaited by the 92,000 US troops still in Iraq — they mostly remain confined to their bases. This month Odierno was supposed to have ordered the pullout of 12,500, a figure that was meant to escalate every week between now and 31 August, when only 50,000 US troops are set to remain — all of them non-combat forces.

Hmmm. On the other hand, Reuters has this:

The Pentagon said on Tuesday the U.S. drawdown from Iraq was on schedule despite this week’s deadly bombings and persistent political uncertainty.

The United States aims to withdraw 40,000 troops from Iraq over the next four months — a major logistical challenge which the Pentagon says will get under way in earnest in June…..Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell [] said he did not believe the pace of the withdrawal during the month of May had been altered because of recent events in Iraq. But he added the top U.S. commander in Iraq had some flexibility as long as the September 1 deadline was met.

So the May drawdown hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean the withdrawal is slowing down. There’s still some “flexibility” here.

I don’t know what this means. But it’s worth keeping an eye on. I really do believe that everyone from Obama on down on our side and from Maliki on down on the Iraqi side wants the withdrawal to go ahead on schedule. But there are always reasons to delay things. Always. The only way we’ll ever get out is to forge ahead regardless.


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