Secretary of Defense Gates says withdrawal from Iraq may happen more quickly than originally planned:
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Wednesday that as many as 5,000 United States troops could come home from Iraq earlier than the Pentagon had planned because violence levels in the country were generally down and Iraqi security forces were doing well on their own.
Under the existing plan, two brigades, or about 10,000 troops, are to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2009. Mr. Gates said it was now possible that an additional brigade, or 5,000 troops, would come home by that time.
Asked if he saw anything in Iraq that gave him reason to think there could be a slowdown or acceleration in the planned troop withdrawal, Mr. Gates replied, “I don’t think there’s anything in the cards for a slowdown.” Then he added, “I think there’s at least some chance of a modest acceleration because of the way General Odierno sees things going. But that remains to be seen.”
There are currently about 130,000 United States troops in Iraq. The current plan calls for a modest drawdown by the end of this year so that there are still large numbers of American troops in place to help keep stability for Iraqi elections in January 2010. From March through August 2010, the plan calls for a steep drawdown of some 80,000 troops, so that by the end of next summer there remains a “residual force” of 30,000 to 50,000 troops. Under an agreement with the Iraqi government, all United States forces have to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
6 years, 4,300+ American casualties and several trillion dollars later, our long national nightmare–well, at least one of our GOP-crafted national nightmares–is coming to an end.
It’s about damn time.