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The authors assess options for military withdrawal in Iraq in 2020 in the context of stated U.S. strategies and policy objectives since 2005. They conclude that supporting a stable and friendly Iraq is in the continuing long-term interest of the United States—and that this does not require continuing the combat assistance mission in Iraq over the long run, but does require maintaining a small force of military advisers to help train and develop Iraqi military capabilities so that Iraq can defend itself.

More specifically, the authors recommend that the United States continue to actively support the development of stability and democracy in Iraq; select optimal risk-benefit balance between no withdrawal and limited withdrawal; maintain an enduring advisory mission to help develop Iraq's security forces; and help the Iraqi military improve civil-military relations over time.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute.

This publication is part of the RAND Corporation Perspective series. RAND Perspectives present expert insights on timely policy issues. All RAND Perspectives undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.

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