U.S. forces under the terms of a bilateral security agreement with Baghdad are obligated to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. U.S. President Barack Obama, in his revised war plan for Afghanistan, meanwhile, said American troops could begin to pull out of Afghanistan by 2011.
Both plans rely on the capability of the host nation and there is nothing to suggest either will be ready for U.S. soldiers to leave, writes Richard Haass in Newsweek magazine.
The Afghan strategy looks to national forces to stand up over time, allowing U.S. troops to disengage when conditions permit. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, says this could be a bluff to pressure the Afghan government to step in line.
In Iraq, bickering over a variety of issues suggests Baghdad is not moving ahead with political transformation needed to bring stability to the country.
Washington had viewed a national election in Iraq scheduled for February as a sign of development. But a series of high-profile attacks, including a string of bombings Tuesday that left more than 100 dead, suggests otherwise, complicating U.S. military plans.
"All of which is to say that exit strategies are simpler to design than to execute," writes Haass. "Too often they morph into endurance strategies."