Ever since Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told Der Spiegel magazine last month that he wanted U.S. troops to withdraw from his country in 2010, momentum in the Iraq debate has shifted toward those who favor extrication.
Even the Bush administration, which long argued that setting a date for withdrawal from Iraq would invite disaster, is reportedly acquiescing to Iraqi demands that an accord governing the status of U.S. troops in Iraq after 2008 will specify a end date for the U.S. occupation. Now, the only significant force in U.S. politics strongly arguing against withdrawal from Iraq is the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee.
But important as a growing national consensus behind U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is, it sidesteps a large question. What kind of withdrawal should we have?
A wide range of options exist. On one end of the spectrum, some argue that the safest bulwark against a resurgence of sectarian-based instability will be to gradually reduce combat forces -- but keep a robust U.S. military adviser presence in Iraq indefinitely, to assist the still-nascent Iraqi security forces.