From NBC's Jim Miklaszewski
However it may be framed politically, President Obama's decision on U.S. troop levels in Iraq will NOT withdraw all U.S. combat forces from Iraq within the next 19 months.
Senior military and Pentagon officials stress -- whatever the bottom line number (which may be up to 50,000 troops remaining, it will include combat elements. Senior military officials tell NBC News those combat troops may be renamed as "advisory brigades," which will work closely with the Iraqi military, but they will still be combat forces. There will also be a number of combat forces that would be assigned to protection of the U.S. military force, the U.S. embassy and U.S. government civilian workers in Iraq.
There will also be a "residual combat force" that will be assigned to a counter-terrorism mission, to continue to hunt down terrorist elements (Al Qaeda, foreign fighters, etc.) in Iraq.
Besides the reduction in U.S. forces from today's 142,000 to about 50,000 the biggest change is that even those combat forces that do remain will no longer be engaged in daily, routine combat missions as they are today. By August 2010, the Iraqi military and police are expected to takeover all daily combat missions.
Nevertheless, given the nature of the counterinsurgency in Iraq, all U.S. forces -- whatever their mission, rank, or gender -- could be drawn into the fight without warning. Therefore, as Gen. (retired) Barry McCaffrey has repeatedly stressed, to leave those forces without some level of combat force protection would be irresponsible.