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An exit strategy is a means of escaping one's current situation, typically an unfavourable situation. An organization or individual without an exit strategy may be in a quagmire. At worst, an exit strategy will save face; at best, an exit strategy will peg a withdrawal to the achievement of an objective worth more than the cost of continued involvement.

In warfare

In military strategy an exit strategy is understood to minimize what military jargon called blood and treasure (lives and material).

The term was used technically in internal Pentagonmarker critiques of the Vietnam War (cf. President Richard Nixon's promise of Peace With Honor), but remained obscure to the general public until the Battle of Mogadishumarker, Somaliamarker when the U.S. military involvement in that U.N. peacekeeping operation cost the lives of U.S. troops without a clear objective. Republican critics of President Bill Clinton derided him for having no exit strategy, although he had inherited an active military operation from his predecessor, President George H. W. Bush. The criticism was revived later against the U.S. involvement in the Yugoslav wars, including peacekeeping operations in Bosniamarker and Kosovomarker and the Kosovo war against Serbia.

The term has been adopted by critics of U.S. involvement in Afghanistanmarker and especially Iraqmarker. President George W. Bush was said to have no exit strategy to remove troops from Iraq, and critics worried about the number of Coalition soldiers and Iraqimarker civilians who would suffer injury or death as a result. President Barack Obama also has not yet publicly announced an exit strategy for the troops in Afghanistan.

In business

In entrepreneurship and strategic management an exit strategy, exit plan, or strategic withdrawal, is a way to transition one's ownership of a company or the operation of some part of the company. Entrepreneurs and investors devise ways of recouping the capital they have invested in a company. The most common strategy is simply to sell their equity position to someone else.

Transition companies are professional mergers and acquisitions companies that assist Middle Market business owners with their exit strategy. Services offered are often referred to as Transition Management services.

From time to time, management may decide it is necessary to downsize its operations. This typically involves discontinuing less profitable brands, products, product lines, or operating divisions.

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