By agreeing to a fixed deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, President Bush contradicted years of promises that he would never agree to anything but a "conditions-based" plan for phasing out the American military role there. But he may also have given President-elect Barack Obama more flexibility in fulfilling his campaign promise to bring the troops home.
Obama pledged during the campaign to withdraw the remaining U.S. combat troops in 16 months, at roughly the rate of one combat brigade a month. The plan tentatively approved in Baghdad yesterday would essentially give Obama until the end of 2011 to pull out all U.S. forces, while also putting the imprimatur of the Bush administration on the idea that there needs to be an ironclad deadline for troop removal.
"It greatly eases the pressure on [Obama] to meet a fixed abstract schedule for U.S. withdrawals," said Anthony H. Cordesman, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.