A month ago in this space, I expressed skepticism about President Obama’s announced plan for withdrawing from Iraq — not so much because he was backing down from the timeline he campaigned on, but rather because the generals assigned to implement the plan might think he was.
This report today from Jane Arraf of the Christian Science Monitor doesn’t make me feel any better:
In an exclusive interview, the top US ground commander in Iraq says that while Iraqi forces have made huge strides, Iraqi officials are likely to ask for US help in the key cities of Baquba and Mosul, meaning that American troops may stay there after the deadline for redeployment to major bases. Senior military commanders say US troops will also likely stay on in the southern city of Basra.
“In Mosul and Diyala [Province], as we do a combined or joint assessment of the situation on the ground, I have every expectation that both sides will say we need to stay with this a little bit longer until this improves,” says Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, echoing sentiments of Iraqi officials concerned about ongoing fighting in those areas. . . .
“I think the Iraqis know that there are some things that have to occur before we leave,” he says. “They know that there are some capabilities that they have to develop. I think they’ll be up to task when we do leave by 2011.“
Despite the wrangling it took for the Iraqi government to impose a withdrawal deadline on the Bush misadministration, I’m not surprised that they might turn around and ask for extensions. I kept trying to tell people during last year’s negotiations that Prime Minister Maliki’s goal wasn’t necessarily to force the Americans out, but rather to ensure that if they stayed, it would be on the Iraqi government’s terms.
By that, I mean that instead of supporting a (mythical) nascent democracy as it gains momentum, U.S. troops would more likely be subcontractors used by a partisan/sectarian regime to suppress its opponents. As the Maliki government reneges on promises of political reconciliation, that fate becomes more likely. By the time it become obvious to everyone, though, the Obama administration may feel too inextricably bound to its commitments to abandon our supposed Iraqi allies.
Oh, well. At least we’re not getting ourselves mired in deeper in Afghanistan at the same… ooooops!
(Cross-posted at Firedoglake.)