A majority of Iraqis believe it was the wrong time for a major withdrawal of US combat troops, a poll said on Tuesday, with more than half also warning that it would have negative consequences.
When asked if it was the right time for American soldiers to leave -- the US military earlier confirmed troop numbers in Iraq had fallen under 50,000 for the first time -- 59.8 percent said no, compared to 39.5 percent who said yes.
One can understand why the reality of our departure is scary:
Bombers and gunmen killed at least 56 Iraqis in more than two dozen attacks across the country Wednesday, mostly targeting security forces and rekindling memories of the days when insurgents ruled the streets.
I never took seriously earlier polling during the fighting that Iraqis wanted us out. Of course they did. It would be a matter of pride. But they also knew they needed us. And they were either confident or feared we wouldn't (or couldn't) leave--ever.
But we aren't gone. We still have six combat brigades and 4-5,000 special forces people in Iraq to help the Iraqis fight al Qaeda, Baathists, and the Iranian-backed Shia death squads.
And I assume we'll negotiate a new deal with the Iraqis to keep our forces in Iraq after 2011 to keep helping them defend their new democracy.
UPDATE: We rather assume they'll ask us to stay, too:
Iraq's leaders, worried about the country's stability and the designs of powerful neighbors such as Iran and Saudi Arabia , may ask for at least some American troops to remain as an insurance policy, Iraqi and U.S. observers said.
"There is a reasonable probability the Iraqis, once they've got a new government in place, will reassess" and request a change to the 2008 status of forces agreement, said Ryan Crocker , who was the U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009.
"I hope we'll be responsive," Crocker said in an interview, arguing that there's much left to do in Iraq .
About half of our 50,000 are headquarters and non-combat people--including Air Force people, I assume. Less than a tenth are special forces. Under 21,000 are in 6
Perhaps we can draw down to three [combat] brigades (one near Basra, one near Baghdad, and one near Mosul and Kirkuk), with a total of 10,000. Perhaps we get down to 12,000 support personnel and a few thousand special forces. That would total 25,000. Plus civilian contractors for training, maintenance, and working with the State Department. Perhaps we can count on using air power based in Turkey and Kuwait to miminimze the need to put fighter aircraft and support planes inside Iraq.
And I'd be happy if we had a couple brigade sets of equipment in Iraq so we could rapidly fly in troops to reinforce our troops there in a crisis.
Assuming we could also call on an airborne brigade based in Italy and a Marine Expeditionary Unit afloat within CENTCOM, we could more than double our ground power in a short time.
I think we have a couple more brigade sets for the Army in the region (Kuwait and afloat?), meaning we could get a bit more without even calling on forces in the United States.
It would be the height of folly to fail to put the resources into Iraq needed to exploit and defend what we've won already at the price we've paid. So yeah, I hope we'll be responsive, too.