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Eight months shy of its deadline for pulling the last American soldier from Iraq and closing the door on an 8-year war, the Pentagon is having second thoughts.
Reluctant to say it publicly, officials fear a final pullout in December could create a security vacuum, offering an opportunity for power grabs by antagonists in an unresolved and simmering Arab-Kurd dispute, a weakened but still active al-Qaida or even an adventurous neighbor such as Iran.
The U.S. wants to keep perhaps several thousand troops in Iraq, not to engage in combat but to guard against an unraveling of a still-fragile peace.
No, we need someone on the ground protecting the oil assets and offices.
The absolute first ones to be caught, tried and killed will be anyone working for western oil firms.
"CHENEY: My own judgment based on my time as secretary of Defense, and having operated in this area in the past, I'm confident that our troops will be successful, and I think it'll go relatively quickly, but we can't...
CHENEY: ...we can't count on that.
CHENEY: Weeks rather than months"
Rumsfeld, 2/7/2003. "It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."