Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama Weighs 19-Month Iraqi Pullout Timetable That Leaves 50,000 Troops Behind

President Barack Obama is considering a plan to pull out U.S. troops from Iraq in 19 months, not the 16 months he promised on the campaign trail. The other twist in the reported plan is that it would leave 50,000 troops behind, which begs the question: Is that really a full drawdown of U.S. forces in that war-torn country?

The plan would split the difference between Obama’s campaign pledge to withdraw most forces in 16 months and the U.S. obligation under a security agreement with Iraq to pull out altogether by the end of 2011, an unnamed official told Bloomberg. The official said the president hasn’t made a final decision about an Iraq drawdown.

About 142,000 U.S. troops are now in Iraq, according to the Defense Department.

Ann Scott Tyson and Anne E. Kornblut of The Washington Post report that it is the compromise plan:

The withdrawal timetable of about 19 months was one of several options outlined for Obama by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, including a faster schedule of 16 months and a slower plan of 23 months, one official said. "The risks are different with each option, and there are pros and cons of each one," he said.

"It's the president's desire to conduct a responsible drawdown that won't put at risk the gains and allows for the protection of the troops," he said.

Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube of NBC say that some of the 50,000 troops remaining will be combat troops. This is an apparent change from Obama's position during the campaign when he repeatedly promised a withdraw of all combat troops in 16 months:

Although the plan falls short of Obama's campaign pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat forces from Iraq within 16 months, one senior military official said, "It's close."

The official also points out, however, that the remaining force of 50,000 would still contain a sizeable "combat element" to provide rapid reaction assistance to Iraqi combat forces and force protection for the remaining American troops and U.S. government civilians.

Here is Obama speaking on July 3, 2008, during the campaign in which he was specific in detailing his plan for removing troops from Iraq. He explains his 16-month timetable at the 50-second mark of this following video. At the 3:16 mark, he makes it clear that he would tell the generals what the mission is, not the other way around, leaving no doubt that he was setting policy as president. At this point, he criticized President Bush for taking a lead from Army Gen. David Petraeus. At the 5:10 mark he makes his policy clear: "I will bring our troops out at a pace of one to two brigades out a month, and at that pace we'll have our combat troops out in 16 months. That is what I intend to do as president of the United States."

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