As of this month, the United States no longer has combat troops in Iraq.
1.Not even close. Of the roughly 50,000 American military personnel who remain in Iraq, the majority are still combat troops -- they're just named something else. The major units still in Iraq will no longer be called "brigade combat teams" and instead will be called "advisory and assistance brigades." But a rose by any other name is still a rose, and the differences in brigade structure and personnel are minimal.
Thanks to the troop "surge," Iraq is secure enough that it will not fall back into civil war as U.S. forces pull out.
2.Security in Iraq has improved enormously since the darkest days of 2005-2006, but the jury is still out on what will happen in the months and years ahead
The United States is leaving behind a broken political system.
3.If some on the right want to claim (incorrectly) that the surge stabilized Iraq to the point that civil war is impossible, their counterparts on the left try to insist (equally incorrectly) that the change in U.S. tactics and strategy in 2007-2008 had no impact on Iraq's politics whatsoever.
Iraqis want U.S. troops to stay. Or they want them leave.
4. Be very, very careful with Iraqi public opinion. Polls are rarely subtle enough to capture the complexity of Iraqi views. Typically, they show a small number of Iraqis who want the Americans out immediately at any cost, a small number who want them to stay forever and a vast majority in the middle -- determined that U.S. troops should leave, but only after a certain period of time. When Iraqis are asked how long they believe our troops are needed, their answers range from a few months to a few years, but are strongly linked to however long the respondent believes it will take Iraq's forces to be able to handle security on their own.
The war will end "on schedule."
5. Going forward, America's involvement in Iraq can (and hopefully will ) be much reduced, but the need for a U.S. presence will endure for many years. Iraq has demonstrated great potential, but at this point it is only potential. The country still holds great peril as well -- not just for Iraqis, but for our interests in one of the world's most strategically important regions.