The election of Senator Obama to the US Presidency will probably bring about long over
due changes to America’s foreign policy in regard to Iraq, and the Middle East. As
President, Obama has already committed his Administration to phased troop reductions
in Iraq, and renewing the effort to combat terrorism in Afghanistan.

President Bush’s surge policy in Iraq will essentially be dismantled, in favor of an approach to Iraq that was favored by the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton framework–in terms of the gradual redeployment of US troops in Iraq. The phased redeployment would take
place over about a 16 month time frame.

In his July 14, 2008 Op Ed piece in the New York Times Obama noted that: “We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.”

The Obama Administration’s plan to leave “a residual force in Iraq,” may encounter
opposition from liberals, because the remaining force in Iraq has been estimated to
be at anywhere from 30,000-60,000 American troops, to continue training Iraqis, and
counterinsurgency operations. The remaining force is somewhat similar to a bipartisan
proposal that came out in September of 2007 which was supported by Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb), and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) that called for 50,000-60,000 US troops to remain in Iraq, until the insurgency was adequately reduced.

The Obama plan to increase US force levels in Afghanistan in sufficient numbers to deal
with the resurgence of the Taliban, and al Qaeda, will probably not meet with much opposition since Afghanistan has not created much controversy during the war on terror.
However, what could become problematic is that President elect Obama has suggested a more aggressive approach toward al Qaeda that could cause sovereignty issues with American incursions into Pakistani territory.

Another current problem in Iraq is that the Maliki government has been at odds with
the Bush Administration, in regard to criminal prosecution of US soldiers who commit
serious crimes while not on duty. However, the LA Times November 14, 2008 reported that Prime Minister Maliki endorsed a security agreement with the US, that would leave some US troops in Iraq until 2011.

The Iraqi government approved the new security agreement on November 16, 2008.
The Iraqi Parliament approved the new security pact on November 27, 2008, and the pact sets a deadline of December 31, 2011 for all US troop withdrawals from Iraq.

The war on terror needs to be refocused upon fighting al Qaeda, and other jihadist groups, and not just upon the sectarian war within Iraq. The Obama Administration appears to be ready to provide a new approach to the problems in Iraq, that would support many elements of the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton framework

Obama’s new foreign policy team which will be Senator Hillary Clinton at Secretary
of State, General James Jones at National Security Advisor, Robert Gates as Defense
Secretary, and General Eric Shinseki at Veteran Affairs, should be able to refocus American foreign policy in the Middle East. At least, the Obama Administration should be able to begin the long anticipated phased troop reductions in Iraq, in early 2009.

Todd A. Davis is a political scientist, and a free lance journalist who writes about global
issues, and recently published The Global War On Terror: 9/11, Iraq, and America’s Crisis in the Middle East at Xlibris in September of 2008.