Can Obama Meet the Next Iraq Deadline?

AP
Now that the proverbial page has been turned in Iraq, what's next?

On paper, it's the withdrawal of all remaining U.S. troops by the end of 2011. Many experts think that will be harder than getting to 50,000.

The current plan is to stay at 50,000 until next summer, then begin a rapid drawdown to zero by the end of the year. That's what the agreement between Iraq and the U.S., signed by the Bush Administration, calls for and that's what Obama Administration officials insist will happen.

But at least one senior Iraqi commander has been quoted as saying that American troops will be needed until 2020, and many people expect the Iraqi government (if they ever succeed in forming one) will ask to renegotiate the agreement.

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Question is: would the Obama Administration agree to a request to extend the American troop presence?

The president promised to end the war and the temptation to seal that promise by going to 0 just as he started gearing up for his reelection would be powerful. On the other hand, it is hard to see how he would jeopardize all the blood and treasure invested in Iraq just to meet a time table.

President Obama still has some tough decisions to make in Iraq and as former ambassador Ryan Crocker likes to point out, the events that will determine the outcome of the American adventure in Iraq have yet to happen.

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David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.

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