The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released a report outlining possible timelines and estimated costs of the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. The report summarizes the administration’s plan for troop withdrawal, and includes four alternative timelines and their associated costs. As one would assume, the costs are directly linked to when the US begins the withdrawal and how quickly the brigades leave. The report did not evaluate the operational or security disadvantages associated with a quicker or slower withdrawal, but collectively the various withdrawal scenarios paint a realistic picture of the budgetary implications of a faster or slower withdrawal.
As featured in the report, the administration’s plan is based on the following assumptions:
- All US forces will be out of the country by the end of December 2011.
- The number of US troops in Iraq has decreased from 140,000 in March 2009 to roughly 128,000 in September 2009.
- Current troop levels will remain in Iraq until after the parliamentary elections in January 2010.
- All combat operations in Iraq would cease by the end of August 2010; subsequently, no more than 50,000 troops would remain in Iraq to train and advise Iraqi security forces.
- At the end of calendar year 2011, the remaining 50,000 troops will leave Iraq.
A faster or slower withdrawal could depend on the following issues:
The ability of the Iraqi government and its security forces to assume and maintain control in Iraq. There is fear of a “security lapse” and if withdrawal is viewed as seriously undermining the stability of the country, the Obama Administration would likely rethink the planned withdrawal.
Unrest due to the January 2010 elections. Viewed as a watershed moment for the continuity of Iraqi political stability, the administration will pay close attention to these elections.
US military requirements in other countries, such as Afghanistan or Pakistan.
The logistical challenges of transitioning troops and equipment, which will “take years to work through.”