Frederick Kagan, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank, tells U.S. News that, barring major developments, he sees little reason to reduce force levels in Iraq below presurge levels until early 2009.
"I can see no reason to expect that we will be able to evaluate the levels of force appropriate in Iraq until the new president comes into office," says Kagan, one of the chief architects of the current surge strategy in Iraq. The last of the surge troops leaves Iraq in July. As the latter part of 2008 approaches, Kagan adds, there are Iraqi provincial elections, U.S. presidential elections, and the Islamic religious month of Ramadan, in the past a time of increased violence in the country. "If troops only get out in July, how can you even make evaluations before October?" he asks.
With an American presidential election on the horizon, "it is difficult to know what the enemy will try to do with that," Kagan says, adding that more U.S. troops may be needed later this year to support Iraqi provincial election security. Beyond that, he says, "is anyone really going to feel comfortable with Bush making decisions about the force levels with two months left to go in his presidency?"