Tom Ricks: Obama's War In Iraq May Last Longer Than Bush's

02/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

News flash for the president-elect: All our troops are combat troops. It isn't like some American soldiers stroll around Iraq unarmed. Nor do the insurgents inquire about the troops' MOS (military occupational specialties) before detonating an IED. Indeed, I feel safer in Iraq accompanying an infantry unit on foot patrol than I do while riding in a convoy of transport soldiers, who are much more likely to get popped by a roadside bomb. So his promise to get "combat troops" out of Iraq in the next 16 months is a phrase that means much less than it appears to. At any rate, I bet Obama is wrong: I think we are going to have tens of thousands of troops in Iraq -- mentoring, advising and engaged in combat -- for many years to come.

The recent Status of Forces Agreement also means less than it seems. For example, U.S. forces are supposed to get out of major bases in the cities later this year. But there really aren't major big bases in the cities now-the last time I was in Iraq I was told there is really only one -- and U.S. military advisors will remain in urban outposts along with Iraqi forces. I suspect the SOFA really is most meaningful for the political help it will give Prime Minister Maliki in getting re-elected at the end of 2009 by taking the American presence off the table as a wedge issue for Iraqis.

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