I'm not a military or civil affairs expert so I can't produce my own ideas about how to get out of Iraq, but I can collect and organize the ideas of others. I will continue to do this in my blog. My initial post was How to Get Out of Iraq.
One of the most serious problems facing a withdrawal of U.S. troops is the problem of Baghdad. As Peter Galbraith wrote in The End of Iraq (p. 203), Baghdad is "a city that is 60/40 percent Shiite-Sunni (a rough estimate that excludes significant Kurdish and Christian minorities) and is the front line of Iraq's civil war. Under the constitution, Baghdad may not join any other region, but can become a region on its own. It is hard to see how this resolves the sectarian divide in what is by far the world's most dangerous capital city." And on p. 222-3: "Theoretically, the United States has the power to provide some level of security in Baghdad. U.S. soldiers would have to become the city's police, manning checkpoints, confiscating weapons, arresting criminals as well as terrorists, and disarming powerful militias, including those within the police and army. It would mean a radically different mission, require many more troops, and result in many more casualties. And it may not work. U.S. troops, operating without necessary language skills and local knowledge, and rightly concerned with protecting themselves, are not a good substitute for reliable Iraqi policemen.... The alternative is to recognize that there is not much that the United States is able and willing to do to stop the bloodshed in Baghdad. Once they get started, modern civil wars develop a momentum of their own."
The U.S. invasion has unleashed a sectarian war. Baghdad is apparently the largest concentration of Sunnis and Shia living in close proximity. Baghdad has a population of approximately seven million people. Were American troops to withdraw one can only assume that the current rate of over 50 deaths per day would increase dramatically. Either a viable plan to mitigate this is developed or we leave and let the Iraqis evolve their own solution. While this is a terrible outcome to contemplate our continued occupation is not stopping the killing and it puts American troops in the crossfire. According to The Nation of November 27, one option being considered by the Iraq Study Group "calls for stabilizing Baghdad while the U.S. Embassy works for an accomodation with the insurgents."
I think the key to any of these plans is the U.S. encouraging Iraqi initiative by negotiating a phased withdrawal of troops which places the responsibility for solutions upon Iraqi leaders and hopefully encourages them to come to a compromise between Shia and Sunni representatives. The first step in any plan must begin with the setting of a date for phased troop withdrawal (or redeployment out of combat zones); this is essential to demonstrating that Iraqis must take responsibility for their own country and either make the necessary compromises or accept the consequences of a continuing sectarian war.