So, the Iraq war is over at last. Or at least it will be on New Years Eve. Or so we were assured by the Commander in Chief not very long ago. Or… maybe not.

Remember when President Obama solemnly announced in October that he would keep his 2008 campaign promise and bring all U.S. troops home from Iraq? Never mind!

In a joint press appearance in Baghdad on Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki disclosed that the end of the eight-year U.S. military mission in Iraq, currently scheduled for December 31, will come with an asterisk. The fewer than 15,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq will indeed depart by then — only to have a smaller contingent of them welcomed back to Iraq later on, probably next year.

You know, when I heard that Uncle Joe was making a surprise trip to Baghdad, I foolishly assumed that he was just there to share a bit of turkey and cranberry sauce with the troops while they packed up their things. Who knew that he planned on hooking up some jumper cables and trying to get the war machine kicked back into gear? So what exactly does he think this is going to accomplish, and how does it change any of the factors on the ground which drove the original decision to bug out?

According to Maliki, whose public (and parliament) doesn’t want U.S. troops in Iraq any longer, there’s “no doubt the U.S. forces have a role in providing training of Iraqi forces.” That’s a big change, since it’s his government that’s the obstacle to a residual U.S. troop presence. Biden seized on that, and went further. Not only will the U.S. and Iraq maintain a “robust security relationship,” but they’ll head back to the negotiating table to work out a post-2011 role for U.S. troops, “including areas of training, intelligence and counterterrorism,” Biden declared.

Pardon my skepticism, but precisely how is that different from the original plan which fell apart this fall? (Aside from a few digits on the total troop numbers, anyway.) And what about the refusal to provide immunity and protection to our troops? Is that problem now solved? (And I don’t mean “solved” in that Maliki said something hopeful and nice about it. I mean something approved and written in stone at the required levels.)

Sounds like more of the same, only with the added expense of packing everyone out only to ship some of them back next year. Further, this just sounds like an unwarranted security risk. During the time we’re gone, who knows what forces will be up to what hijinks in the currently secured areas? Somebody has some serious explaining to do to the public before the ink is allowed to dry on any plan like this.