TROOPS OUT OF IRAQ BY AUGUST 2010…. The official announcement should come later this week, but in the meantime, the AP has this report:

The United States plans to withdraw most of its troops from Iraq by August 2010, 19 months after President Barack Obama’s inauguration, according to administration officials. The withdrawal plan would fulfill one of Obama’s central campaign pledges, albeit a little more slowly than he promised. He said he would withdraw troops within 16 months, roughly one brigade a month from the time of his inauguration. […]

The U.S. military will leave behind a residual force, between 30,000 and 50,000 troops, to continue advising and training Iraqi security forces, the two officials said. Also staying beyond the 19 months will be intelligence and surveillance specialists and their equipment, including unmanned aircraft, they said.

A further withdrawal will take place before December 2011, the period by which the U.S. agreed with Iraq to remove all American troops.

According to the AP report, military commanders and national security advisers differed on strategies, and responded to the president’s request with a series of alternatives. The 16-month withdrawal process was weighed against a 23-month timeline. As Obama is often inclined to do, he reportedly chose a 19-month strategy as a compromise.

Joe Klein added, “[T]he situation in Iraq has improved and a fairly rapid draw-down is not only practicable but necessary. The Army and Marines remain over-deployed, there are budgetary considerations and the Af/Pak situation obviously has become a higher military priority. There are still serious problems in Iraq, especially along the Arab-Kurd border in the north, but nothing like the chaos that existed two years ago…. [A] dreadful chapter in the history of American policy — a bloody war of choice launched thoughtlessly — seems to be coming to a close.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.