Project on Defense Alternatives

Iraq War Withdrawal and Exit Plans

Updated 20 October 2008

(First compiled December 2005)

Plans by Analysts and Experts  |  Positions of American Political Leaders  |  Select Commentaries

Meaning of "Withdrawal" and "Exit" is Changing over Time and with the Politics of this War

When Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives wrote his first Iraq War exit plan in July 2004 he was the second defense policy analyst who offered such a plan. In January 2005 Massachusetts Congressman Marty Meehan was the first elected political leader to call for an exit plan. During 2005 the politics of the Iraq War in the U.S. began to shift reaching a turning point in November when conservative Democratic Congressman John P. Murtha ended his support for White House policy.

Since that time most political leaders have had to address the question of how and when they will withdraw troops from Iraq. It has become clear that many such plans for "exiting" or "withdrawing" troops from Iraq do not mean that all troops will leave in the foreseeable future. Some refer to "redeploying" troops. Others allow for residual troops to stay in Iraq for certain missions, but don't specify how many (almost certainly many thousands.) For more on withdrawal meaning creep, see Tom Engelhardt's "The Withdrawal Follies" (28 July 2007) and Charles Knight's "Like a Mirage in the Desert: full withdrawal may recede into the time horizon" (25 July 2008).

All this suggests that readers should exercise caution when attributing meaning to the phrases "troop withdrawals" and "exit plans." Readers are advised to attend to details; there may be devils lurking.

Plans by Analysts and Experts

Exit Logistics

U.S. Out How?
Interview with Carl Conetta. Mother Jones Magazine, 18 October 2007.

Start Planning Logistics of Iraq Withdrawal
Lenny Richoux. Defense News, 24 September 2007.

Easy Out
Gregory Cochran. The American Conservative, 24 September 2007.

Planning for Defeat
George Packer. The New Yorker, 17 September 2007.

How to Withdraw Quickly and Safely
Lawrence J. Korb and Max A. Bergmann. The Boston Globe, 09 September 2007.

Quickly, Carefully, and Generously: The Necessary Steps for a Responsible Withdrawal from Iraq
Task Force for a Responsible Withdrawal from Iraq. The Commonwealth Institute, June 2008.

Iraq: The Way to Go
Peter W. Galbraith. The New York Review of Books, 16 August 2007.

Congressional Testimony on Iraq
Max Boot. Testimony before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, 12 July 2007 (.pdf file).

Winning in Iraq: Enlisting Iraq's neighbors in facilitating the International Compact with Iraq and enabling a U.S. Exit
Federic Pearson, Peter Ezra Weinberger, and Alan Howe; July 2007 (.pdf file).

Phased Transition: A Responsible Way Forward and Out of Iraq
James N. Miller and Shawn W. Brimley. Center for a New American Security, June 2007 (.pdf file).

After the Surge: The Case for U.S. Military Disengagement from Iraq
Steven N. Simon. Council on Foreign Relations, February 2007 (.pdf file).

Resolving Iraq: Progress Depends on a Short Timeline for US Troop Withdrawal
Carl Conetta. PDA Briefing Memo #40, 18 January 2007.

Strategic Redeployment 2.0: A Progressive Strategy for Iraq
Lawrence Korb and Brian Katulis. Center for American Progress, May 2006 (.pdf file).

Exit Strategy: How to Disengage From Iraq in 18 Months
Barry R. Posen. Boston Review, January/February 2006.
With comments by Barbara Bodine, Joseph Biden, Vivek Chibber, Russell Feingold, Randall Forsberg, Lawrence Korb and Brian Katulis, Helena Cobban, Christopher Preble, Eliot Weinberger, Nir Rosen and with response by Barry R. Posen.

A Way Out of Iraq
Richard A. Clarke. USA Today, 28 November 2005.

Plan a Moderate Iraq Exit Strategy
Michael E. O'Hanlon and Bill Danvers. The Christian Science Monitor, 22 November 2005.

Getting Out: Our Strategic Interest
Charles V. Pena., 22 November 2005.

Exit Strategy
William S. Lind. Defense and the National Interest, 04 November 2005.

Precedents, Variables, and Options in Planning a U.S. Military Disengagement Strategy From Iraq
W. Andrew Terrill and Conrad C. Crane. Strategic Studies Institute, Army War College, October 2005 (.pdf file).

Strategic Redeployment: A Progressive Plan for Iraq and the Struggle Against Violent Extremists
Lawrence J. Korb and Brian Katulis. Center for American Progress, 29 September 2005 (.pdf file).

The Third Option in Iraq: A Responsible Exit Strategy
Gareth Porter, Middle East Policy, Fall 2005.

400 Days and Out:  A Strategy for Resolving the Iraq Impasse
Carl Conetta. PDA Briefing Memo #34, 19 July 2005.
Appendix: The Iraqi Insurgency & Iraq Security Force Development: Selected Bibliography (.pdf file).
Also see: Insurgent Iraq:  links to full-text online articles and reports about the Iraqi insurgency March 2006.

An Effective U.S. Exit Strategy from Iraq
Helena Cobban. Just World News, 15 July 2005. Posted on the Global Policy Forum website.

Remarks to the Security Policy Working Group Forum on Iraq
James K. Galbraith. Economists for Peace and Security, 22 February 2005 (.pdf file).

Timetable to Freedom: A Plan for Iraqi Stability and Sovereignty
David Cortright. Fourth Freedom Forum, 22 February 2005. Posted on the Commonwealth Institute website. (PowerPoint slideshow).

How to Exit Iraq
Christopher Preble. The National Post, 12 January 2005. Posted on the CATO Institute website on 17 January 2005.

Iraq: The Logic of Disengagement
Edward N. Luttwak. Foreign Affairs, January/February 2005. Posted on the Commonwealth Institute website (.pdf file)

Radical Departure: Toward A Practical Peace in Iraq
Carl Conetta. PDA Briefing Report #16, July 2004.

How to Get Out of Iraq
Peter W. Galbraith. New York Review of Books, 26 April 2004.

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Positions of American Political Leaders

The Candidates on Iraq
Compiled by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Obama's Plan to Responsibly End the War in Iraq
Barack Obama. Statement, September 2007 (.pdf).

Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduces Amendment to Reduce and Transition U.S. Forces in Iraq
Posted on Sen. Carl Levin's website, 11 July 2007. Text of amendment

Lugar Senate Floor Speech Calls for Course Change in Iraq
Richard G. Lugar. Statement, 25 June 2007.

House and Senate Democratic Leaders' Iraq Withdrawal Plans
Summary of the Plans, San Francisco Chronicle, 09 March 2007.
U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act, 08 March 2007 (.pdf file).
House and Senate Iraq Withdrawal Provisions, March 2007.

How To End The War
Russ Feingold., 02 February 2007.

The Kucinich Plan For Iraq
Dennis Kucinich. Statement, 08 January 2007.

A Way Forward in Iraq
Barack Obama. Speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 20 November 2006 (.pdf file).

The Way Out of War
George S. McGovern and William R. Polk. Harper's Magazine, October 2006.

A Way Forward
Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr, September 2006 Posted on his website.

Fact Sheet: Winning the Struggle Between Freedom and Terror in the Middle East
White House, 31 August 2006.

After Failed Strategy, Tactics, Slogans, the U.S. Needs New Direction on Iraq
Dianne Feinstein. San Jose Mercury News, 27 August 2006.

Shays Urges Iraq Withdrawal
Anushka Asthana. Washington Post, 25 August 2006.

Dear Mr. President, Simply Staying the Course in Iraq is Not Working
Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Dick Durbin, Steny Hoyer, Carl Levin, Ike Skelton, Joe Biden, Tom Lantos, Jay Rockefeller, Jane Harman, Daniel Inouye and John Murtha. 31 July 2006.

Set A Deadline for Iraq
John Kerry and Russ Feingold., 20 June 2006.

Senators Levin and Reed Introduce Amendment on U.S. Policy on Iraq
Posted on Carl Levin's website, 19 June 2006. Text of amendment

Two Deadlines and an Exit
John F. Kerry. The New York Times, 05 April 2006. Posted on the Common Dreams website.

Real Security: The Democratic Plan to Protect America and Restore our Leadership in the World
The Democratic Party, 29 March 2006.

Next Steps for Successful Strategy in Iraq
Joe Lieberman. Remarks at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment, 06 December 2005.

The Next Iraq Offensive
Wesley K. Clark. The New York Times, 06 December 2005.

National Strategy for Victory in Iraq
George W. Bush. White House, 30 November 2005.

Letter to Constituents on Iraq Policy
Hillary Rodham Clinton. 29 November 2005.

Turning the Corner in Iraq
Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, 21 November 2005.

War in Iraq
John P. Murtha. Statement, 17 November 2005.

The Right Way in Iraq
John Edwards. Washington Post, 13 November 2005.

Winning The War In Iraq
John McCain. Speech at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 10 November 2005.

Strategy for Success in Iraq Act
John F. Kerry. Resolution introduced in U.S. Senate, 10 November 2005.

Tom Daschle's Remarks at Northwestern University
Tom Daschle. New Leadership for America, 02 November 2005.

Time Frame For U.S. Military Mission in Iraq
Russ Feingold. Congressional Record Statement, 25 October 2005.

Republican Senator [Chuck Hagel] Says U.S. Needs Iraq Exit Strategy Now
Josh Meyer. Los Angeles Times, 22 August 2005. Posted on the Common Dreams website.

The Kucinich Plan to Bring Our Troops Home
Dennis Kucinich. Statement, 16 June 2005.

More Thoughts on Exit Strategy
Tom Hayden., 2005.

Time for an Exit Strategy
Ralph Nader, Kevin Zeese and Virginia Rodino, 22 February 2005.

America's Future In Iraq
Edward M. Kennedy. Speech at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, 27 January 2005.

Woolsey Calls for U.S. Soldiers to Come Home
Lynn Woolsey. House Congressional Resolution #35, 26 January 2005.

Iraq: Finding a Responsible Exit
Marty Meehan. Speech at Brookings Institution, 25 January 2005. Posted on

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Select Commentaries

Conditions-Based U.S. Withdrawals from Iraq
Anthony H. Cordesman. Center for Strategic and International Studies, 22 August 2008 (.pdf file).

It's the Oil
Jim Holt. London Review of Books, 18 October 2007 issue.

Opposing the Kurdistan Option for Withdrawal
Matan Chorev. The Boston Globe, 04 October 2007. Posted on the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs website.

The Withdrawal Follies
Tom Engelhardt. TomDispatch, 26 July 2007.

The Democrats' Iraqi Dilemma: Questions Unasked, Answers Never Volunteered
Ira Chernus. TomDispatch, 23 July 2007. Posted on the ZNet website.

How to Leave Iraq
Michael Duffy. TIME Magazine, 19 July 2007.

Is the Right Really Rising Up Against the Iraq Occupation?
Phyllis Bennis. AlterNet, 18 July 2007.

Is Worrying About Pakistani Nukes Serving To Keep Us In Iraq?
Charles Knight. Originally published in Common Dreams, 13 July 2007.

Iraq: Go Deep or Get Out
Stephen Biddle. Washington Post, 11 July 2007.

The Way Out
Flynt Leverett, Suzanne Nossel, Charles A. Kupchan, Lawrence J. Korb and Peter W. Galbraith. The American Prospect, 10 July 2007.

To the Incoming President: On Iraq
Flynt Leverett. The American Prospect, 20 May 2007.

The Road Home
Editorial. The New York Times, 08 July 2007.

A Step-by-Step Plan for Withdrawing from Iraq
Phillip Carter. Slate, 23 May 2007.

The Adviser Model
Bing West and Owen West. Slate, 23 May 2007.

How to Get Out of Iraq
Juan Cole. The Nation, 23 April 2007.

Escaping the Trap: Why the United States Must Leave Iraq
Ted Galen Carpenter. Cato Institute, 14 February 2007 (.pdf file).

A Road Map Out of Iraq
Zbigniew Brzezinski. Los Angeles Times, 11 February 2007.

Time to Offshore Our Troops
Eugene Gholz, Daryl G. Press and Benjamin Valentino. The New York Times, 12 December 2006.

Bush's Strategy of Wishful Thinking
H.D.S. Greenway. The Boston Globe, 05 December 2006.

Leaving Iraq, Honorably
Chuck Hagel. Washington Post, 26 November 2006.

Bishops Call for Change on Iraq Policy
Michael Paulson. The Boston Globe, 14 November 2006. Posted on the Truthout website.

Saving Iraq: A Critique of Peter W. Galbraith
Zaid al-Ali. Open Democracy, 26 October 2006.

A Golden Bridge Out of Iraq ? Reinforced
Robert S. Leiken. The National Interest, 19 October 2006.

Bush's (Possible) Five-Point Iraq Exit Strategy
Rick Gell. AlterNet, 17 August 2006.

Dems on Iraq: Still Vague, Out of Touch
John Nichols. The Nation, 02 August, 2006. Posted on the Common Dreams website.

The Only Exit Strategy Left
Noah Feldman. The New York Times, 25 June 2006.

The Way Out of Iraq: A Road Map
Mowaffak al-Rubaie. Washington Post, 20 June 2006.

Changing the Course in Iraq: Ten Common Elements among Progressive Plans for Iraq
Rand Beers. Foreign Policy Forum, 18 June 2006.

Excerpt From Iraq: the Logic of Withdrawal
Anthony Arnove. Excerpt published on the Brooklyn Rail website, 11 May 2006.

Destroying Iraq To Save It
Robert Dreyfuss., 08 May 2006.

Cut and Run? You Bet
Lt. Gen. William E. Odom. Foreign Policy, May/June 2006.

Is There a Responsible Exit from the Strategic Ambush in Iraq?
Thomas R. Mattair, Lawrence J. Korb, Barry R. Posen and Gareth Porter. Transcript of 44th Capitol Hill Conference on U.S. Middle East Policy. Middle East Policy Council, 21 April 2006.

Withdrawal Symptoms
James K. Galbraith. Mother Jones, March/April 2006.

Exiting Iraq: Competing Strategies
Thomas R. Mattair. Middle East Policy Journal, Spring 2006.

Exit Without a Strategy
Sami Ramadani. The Guardian, 24 February 2006.

Not With a Bang, But a Strategy
Mitchell B. Reiss. Boston Globe, 22 January 2006.

Defining Success
Sarah Sewall. Boston Globe, 22 January 2006.

Cronkite: Time for U.S. to leave Iraq
David Bauder. Associated Press, 15 January 2006. Posted on the Mercury News website.

Catholic Bishops Call for 'Responsible Transition' in Iraq; Urge 'Serious Civil Dialogue'
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 12 January 2006.

The Real Choice in Iraq
Zbigniew Brzezinski. Washington Post, 08 January 2006.

End this Evasion on Permanent Army Bases in Iraq
Gary Hart. Financial Times, 03 January 2006.

Leave The Field Now - The Iraqi Endgame is About to Begin
Simon Jenkins. The Sunday Times, UK, 01 January 2006.

Iraq: What Must Be Done Now
Veterans' Alliance for Security and Democracy, December 2005.

Washington Seeks Partial Truce With Iraqi Insurgents
Paul Martin. Washington Times, 21 December 2005.

If America Left Iraq: The Case for Cutting and Running
Nir Rosen. The Atlantic Monthly, 16 December 2005. Posted on the Common Dreams website.

We Should Never Leave Iraq!
Dave Gibson. American Daily, 07 December 2005.

How (Not) To Withdraw From Iraq
Tom Engelhardt. Mother Jones, 02 December 2005.

What Should Be The U.S. Exit Strategy From Iraq?
Interview with William Nash, Daniel Goure, Andrew Krepinevich and Max Boot conducted by Lionel Beehner. Council on Foreign Relations, 28 November 2005.

Costly Withdrawal Is the Price To Be Paid for a Foolish War
Martin van Creveld. Forward, 25 November 2005.

Redeployment Is Not Withdrawal
Gilbert Achchar and Stephen R. Shalom., 23 November 2005.

Iraqi Leaders Call for Pullout Timetable
Salah Nasrawi. The Associated Press, 22 November 2005. Posted on the Truthout website.

The Controlled Chaos Exit From Iraq
John Robb. Global Guerillas, 20 November 2005.

How to Win in Iraq
Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. Foreign Affairs, September/October 2005.

Can the U.S. Military Presence Avert Civil War?
Jim Lobe. Inter Press Service, 26 September 2005.

Commentaries by Michael Schwartz:
Why Immediate Withdrawal Makes Sense, 22 September 2005.
Arguing about the War: The Top Ten Reasons for Staying in (Leaving) Iraq, 05 December 2005. Posted on the Common Dreams website.

Operation Homecoming: How to End the Iraq War
Erik Leaver. Yes Magazine, Fall 2005.

Ten Things Congress Could Demand From Bush on Iraq
Juan Cole. Informed Comment, 22 August 2005.

Call It a Day
Andrew J. Bacevich. Washington Post, 21 August 2005.

Sunnis Offer an Exit Plan
Robert Collier. San Francisco Chronicle, 21 August 2005.

Lessons for an Exit Strategy
Henry A. Kissinger. Washington Post, 12 August 2005.

What's Wrong with Cutting and Running?
William E. Odom. Nieman Watchdog, 03 August 2005.

Time To Pull Out. And Not Just From Iraq
John Deutch. The New York Times, 16 July 2005. Posted on the International Herald Tribune website.

Why withdrawal is possible
Mark LeVine. Asia Times, 30 June 2005.

Iraq Exit Strategy: America's Path Forward
National Libertarian Party, 29 June 2005 (.pdf file).

Withdraw from Iraq
George McGovern and Jim McGovern. The Boston Globe, 06 June 2005.

A Hole in Bush's Iraq Exit Strategy
Spencer Ante. Business Week, 19 April 2005.

Five Bad Options for Iraq
Daniel Byman. Survival, Spring 2005. Posted on the Georgetown University website.

Should We Stay or Should We Go? The US Debate on Exiting Iraq
Carl Conetta. PDA Briefing Memo #33, 07 March 2005.

An Effective U.S. Strategy For Iraq
Anthony H. Cordesman. Testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, 01 February 2005 (.pdf file).

A Time For Leaving
William R. Polk. The American Conservative, 17 January 2005.

An Exit Strategy Based on Iraqi Nationalism
William Pfaff. International Herald Tribune, 04 May 2004. Posted on the Common Dreams website.

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