We may not leave Baghdad with Iraqis scrambling to the roof of our billion- dollar embassy and clinging to the struts of departing American helicopters, but we will likely bequeath a state incapable of protecting its people or defending its borders against even today’s threats. Ultimately, Iraq’s democratic edifice, erected at such great cost, will likely crumble from a combination of internal and external pressures, and whatever succeeds it will surely be even less appealing for the United States and for Iraq’s neighbors. We will face a profusion of trigger points and potential dangers from actors inside Iraq and across the region. Some proportion of Iraq will no doubt continue to provide hospitable sanctuary for Al Qaeda and its aspirants seeking to hone their tactics. In the meantime, the entanglement of the broader Gulf and the Middle East in Iraq’s internal turmoil is likely to worsen.
I think it's unusual for the chief of staff to go on a trip, particularly on a trip this long. The chief of staff is usually more of a chief operating officer in the White House itself, and normally when your principal—whether it's the president himself or the head of Cabinet agency—goes abroad, you have his deputy and those folks staying behind to help manage operations in his absence.