Seven years after the U.S. –led invasion of Iraq, the troops are heading home. Not even a recent resurgence of violence following the March 7 parliamentary elections will stop the withdrawal. “Unless something unforeseen and disastrous happens,” the U.S will have half its troops out by August, the top U.S. commander there recently said. Here are a few things to know about the withdrawal:
1. Starting in May, the 98,000 troops now in Iraq will decrease to 50,000 by the end of August. The remaining forces will largely serve in an advisory role until December 2011, when all U.S. troops are required to leave the country, in compliance with the U.S.-Iraq security agreement.
2. Although half the troops will be home by September 1, special operations forces will remain at their current levels, about 4,500, to conduct specific combat and counterterrorism missions.
3. More than 80 percent of special operations forces currently in battle are assigned to U.S. Central Command, which includes Iraq, Afghanistan and the greater Middle East.
4. After the remaining troops leave in 2011, the U.S. will continue to spend billions of dollars in Iraq. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, between 2012 and 2014, more than $8 billion will go to the repair and replacement of equipment.
5. U.S. troops are all that’s left of the multinational force in Iraq. Of the 38 other countries in the original coalition, Great Britain, Australia and Romania were the last to withdraw their remaining forces. They did so in July 2009.