Yesterday, President Barack Obama made his first steps towards his much touted partial withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by convening a meeting with his national security team.
Following up on a Campaign Pledge?
Back in July of 2008, Obama said that he would bring in the Joint Chiefs of Staff on his first day as president and order them to begin withdrawing combat troops from Iraq. In a statement, Obama said:
“The meeting was productive and I very much appreciated receiving assessments from these experienced and dedicated individuals… During the discussion, I asked the military leadership to engage in additional planning necessary to execute a responsible military drawdown from Iraq.”
While Obama followed through on the commitment of meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it is debatable as to whether or not he really followed through with his campaign pledge. His statement made no mention of his pledge to withdraw combat troops within 16-months, nor did it mention specifically ordering commanders to start the withdrawal. Instead, he ordered “additional planning” for what he is now calling a “drawdown.”
Obama is reportedly planning a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the next week to further discuss the situation in Iraq.
Limits of Obama’s Iraq Withdrawal
Throughout the campaign, MediaMouse.org reported that Obama’s plan to “End the War” was only a plan for partial withdrawal. This fact was often neglected by Obama’s supporters and some sectors of the anti-war movement.
Since winning the election in November of 2008, Obama has continued to advocate for only a limited withdrawal of “combat troops”–a classification that he never defines:
“Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased, directed by military commanders on the ground and done in consultation with the Iraqi government. Military experts believe we can safely redeploy combat brigades from Iraq at a pace of 1 to 2 brigades a month — which would remove all of them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — more than 7 years after the war began.
Under the Obama-Biden plan, a residual force will remain in Iraq and in the region to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda in Iraq and protect American diplomatic and civilian personnel. They will not build permanent bases in Iraq, but will continue efforts to train and support the Iraqi security forces as long as Iraqi leaders move toward political reconciliation and away from sectarianism.”
President Obama has never said what the size of this “residual force” would be (during the campaign Obama’s advisors suggested a that it would be close to 40,000 troops).
Obama has also not pledged to remove private security contractors from Iraq. These contractors play a critical role in maintaining the US occupation of Iraq.