It's hard to understand why the Obama administration would consider leaving only about 3,000 U.S. troops in Iraq after 2011. A force so small would have little ability to contribute to U.S. interests by helping to build a democratic Iraq or by preventing it from sliding back into civil war. But it would incur all the risks and costs of a continuing troop presence.
A few thousand troops would have some residual capacity to provide training and modest logistical support for the Iraqi Security Forces. But that's about it.
They certainly will not be in any position to play the vital peacekeeping role that produced the phenomenal drop in violence starting in early 2007 and that made possible Iraq's hopeful—but entirely incomplete—democratic progress in 2008-2010. The loss of that role could well result in a relapse of Iraq's civil war that might suck in neighboring states and metastasize from civil war to regional war.
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