At a press conference today where President-elect Barack Obama announced his national security team, a reporter asked Obama if he still intended to “withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq in 16 months after Inauguration.” “I believe that 16 months is the right time frame,” said Obama, noting that he has ‘consistently” said he will listen to the recommendations of his commanders on the ground.
Obama noted that during the presidential campaign he promised to “remove our combat troops from Iraq in 16 months with the understanding that it might be necessary, likely to be necessary, to maintain a residual force.” Obama then said that the status-of-forces agreement passed by the Iraqi Parliament last week means that “we are on a glide path to reducing our forces in Iraq.” Watch it:
Obama’s re-commitment to the 16 month withdrawal timeline is significant because the status of forces agreement passed by the Iraqi legislature last week contains a longer time frame for withdrawal. In the agreement, U.S. troops must be withdrawn from Iraq by December 31, 2011. Obama’s continued endorsement of the 16 month timeline is also important because some in the Pentagon are challenging Obama’s time frame:
Many senior military officials agree with Mr. Obama’s call to withdraw tens of thousands of troops from Iraq next year. They believe that the large U.S. military presence in Iraq is causing significant manpower strains on the armed forces and preventing needed reinforcements from being sent to Afghanistan, where conditions have worsened in recent months.
Still, there is a fair amount of skepticism within the Pentagon about Mr. Obama’s call to have all U.S. forces out of Iraq by 2010. In recent interviews, two high-ranking officers stated flatly that it would be logistically impossible to dismantle dozens of large U.S. bases there and withdraw the 150,000 troops now in Iraq so quickly. The officers said it would take close to three years for a full withdrawal and could take longer if the fighting resumed as American forces left the country.
This isn’t the first time since winning election that Obama has pushed back against media speculation that he will abandon his campaign promises. At a press conference last week, Obama said that “the vision for change comes” from him. He said that he will “provide a vision” and his team will implement it.