President Obama has established a deadline for the departure of American troops from Iraq which in theory has a firm deadline of 2011, but in reality there is considerable flexibility regarding when the last American soldier leaves Iraq. Geneeral Ray Odierno insists “I think that Iraq leadership is focused on that this ends in 2011.” Even as he spoke, there was a continuation of bombings in Iraq which apparently is escalating over the past few weeks. Odierno believes during the ensuing 18 months of a large scale American presence, the last remnants of al-Qaida will be destroyed either by American or Iraq forces. But, General Odierno did admit, “In a few key areas, Iraq will have to make a decision on whether they are ready to control the entire operations areas.”
A major unanswered question is what happens if Iraqi forces are still struggling to contain al-Qaida in 2011? Does that mean American troops will be compelled to remain? In reality, the real date for departure has yet to be clearly determined.