While the subject of a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq has been hotly debated, it's a decision that might prove moot. The US may very well have to leave whether it's considered strategically correct or not. The democratically elected Iraqi government may actually want to employ their sovereignty, leading both US and Iraqi negotiators reportedly close to setting a withdrawal date, mostly at the insistence of Iraq. The agreement will likely require all US forces to leave the nation by the end of 2011 and by all cities by next summer. It still has to be approved by the Iraqi parliament.
The agreement comes as the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq is released — and the picture isn't so rosy. The surge, which coincided with a downturn in violence, may not even be the key reason for that result but rather just one contributing factor. A major reason, states the NIE is the truce with the Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr as well as the alliance with the Sunni insurgents, both of which occurred at roughly the same time. The bad news is that according to General David Patraeus, the gains made in Iraq recently are “fragile” and “reversible” due to a series of rising regional tensions.
To see where the recession fits in,
And while all of this timetable talk may seem like a partisan debate in the US, one overall factor must be considered before the discussion of “should we withdraw” or “should we remain” even begins —“how do we pay for it”? According the Congressional Budget Office, the price tag of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 to 2017 will be roughly $2 trillion (factoring in some $705 billion in interest since we are, um, borrowing all of this money). Currently the US debt has surpassed 10 trillion dollars. And precisely because the US is borrowing the money, the looming global recession is set to stunt the funds Washington has available for the war.