In 2002, a little-known Illinois state senator named Barack Obama launched himself onto the national stage by opposing the invasion of Iraq. As a presidential candidate, Obama laid out a 16-month timeline, starting on Inauguration Day and ending in summer 2010, to withdraw major combat forces from Iraq. The Iraqi government, meanwhile, has insisted on a Status of Forces Agreement calling for a U.S. withdrawal by the end of 2011.
But the Iraqi government consistently slips deadlines, and Obama's plan is full of caveats. Is it realistic that all combat brigades will be out of Iraq in 16 months? If not, what might be a more realistic timetable -- shorter or longer? Do you have an estimate on how many troops might still be in Iraq 16 months after inauguration? And what are the factors -- political and military, in the U.S. and in Iraq -- that will shape Obama's choices on how quickly to draw down?
In NationalJournal.com's Expert Blog on national security, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. posed these questions to a series of national security specialists.