Officials: Obama to Leave Up to 50K Troops in Iraq Through 2011
Here's something worth keeping in mind:President Obama will announce plans today to withdraw the bulk of the current 142,000 U.S. troops in Iraq by Aug. 31 of 2010, leaving 35,000 to 50,000 in place until the end of 2011, senior administration officials said yesterday.
Obama, who will make his announcement this morning during a trip to the Marine base at Camp Lejeune, N.C., briefed congressional leaders at the White House yesterday afternoon. Even before that session, as leaked portions of the plan have been reported this week, many Democrats have complained that 50,000 troops is too many to leave behind.
The plan allows three months longer to pull out combat forces than Obama promised during the presidential campaign, and "50,000 is a little higher number than I anticipated," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said before the briefing.
Also:Rep. John McHugh (NY), the senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said that the president's withdrawal plan "is one that we should pray for, plan for and work toward." McHugh said he remained concerned about tenuous security in Iraq, and added that Obama had "assured me that he will revisit his plan if the situation on the ground deteriorates and violence increases."
So when he said "all combat troops out in 16 months," what he actually meant was "most combat troops out in 19 months."The officials said the commanders and conditions on the ground would also determine the exact size of the temporary residual force. In his announcement today, Obama plans to outline a new mission for the troops remaining after August of next year. An unspecified number will conduct ongoing counterterrorism against al-Qaeda and "other extremists" with--and without--Iraqi forces, they said.
And here's something I found amusing:
"It will be structured in such a way . . . to allow us to address some of the fundamental issues as it relates to the health" of the overstretched U.S. military force, one official said, both in relation to Afghanistan, where Obama last week pledged to send an additional 17,000 troops, and "then ultimately as it relates to using this period . . . with a very hard end date" for Iraq. That date, Jan. 1, 2012, was set as the deadline for final withdrawal of all U.S. forces, in a status of forces agreement signed last year by former President George W. Bush and the Iraqi government.Can anyone explain how Obama's timetable is in any way, shape or form different from Bush's? The only difference that I can see is that under Bush's plan, we would have to have every soldier out of Iraq by the end of 2011. Under this proposal, we'll still have 35-50k there on that date."So it's a very different mission than we have now," Gates said. Referring to the existing status-of-forces agreement, Gates added: "Whatever number the president approves as of the date he approves is a way station, because if there is no new agreement, under the SOFA, that number has to be zero at the end of 2011."