countdown to drawdown
Earlier today, President Obama announced that all US troops except for about 150 attached to the US embassy will leave Iraq by the previously agreed upon deadline of December 31.
This is welcome news. Until this month, the US was in negotiations with the Iraqi government to leave thousands of US troops in the country indefinitely. The snag in the plan was the non-negotiable (from the US perspective) stipulation that US soldiers who remained be granted legal immunity. Apparently, members of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's own coalition could not stomach the demand.
Now that he has been forced to accept an immediate withdrawal, Obama is spinning this as fulfillment of his campaign promise to end the war in Iraq. But Obama won't be able to claim this particular achievement until he removes all contractors from the country. While the President did not address the issue of contractors in his speech, it is being reported that around 9,500 contractors--including 5,000 security contractors and 4,500 "general life support" contractors--will remain in Iraq after the remaining US troops depart.
So, while the roughly 39,000 US troops left in Iraq are coming home, over 9,000 contractors will remain.