Seeing as how training the Iraqi Army doesn't seem to be getting anywhere, this likely means staying for a long, long time. The alternative, it seems, is the Center for American Progress' recently-released proposal to withdraw 80,000 troops by the end of 2006—no matter what—and then... deploy them elsewhere around the world. Because, really, the most sensible way to withdraw from Iraq is to get entangled, immediately, in yet another quagmire. No, but seriously, is there any reason to think that putting 1,000 more troops in the Philippines, as CAP proposes, is a good idea? Is the plan to invade Mindano province and wipe out Abu Sayyaf? Maybe we can broaden the war to the MNLF and other affiliated Islamic separatist groups too. Should be fun, I'll make the popcorn.
The military is planning for a wide range of changes the number of military personnel in Iraq between now and spring of 2006, from slightly increasing the Army to, in the most wildly optimistic scenario, bringing home 70,000 troops. It will, however, be almost impossible to sustain the current force through 2006. By earlier next year the military plans to hand off key tasks to private security contractors. There's no set timetable for withdrawal. The conditions for reduction will include "the state of the insurgency, the capability of Iraqi security forces, and the Iraqi government's ability to support military operations," to be determined by a "multinational advisory panel." "[S]ome defense analysts" think that "phasing troop reductions over the long term" is the best way to avoid instability. How long term? "Some estimates" think the Pentagon will retain at least 20,000 military personnel in Iraq for perhaps a decade or more.