Throughout his campaign for president, Barack Obama consistently said that if elected, on day one, he would sit down with his top military commanders and give them a new mission: begin to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq in 16 months. “Let me be as clear as I can be: I intend to end this war,” Obama said last July. “I have seen no information that contradicts the notion that we can bring our troops out safely at a pace of one to two brigades per month.”
Indeed, Obama has in fact, scheduled a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other top military commanders next Wednesday, his first full day in office. Today on ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos noted the meeting and asked Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod if Obama intends to keep his promise, and order the 16 month withdrawal timetable. Axerod answered, “yes”:
AXELROD: Well, that was something that he’s consistently said. He believes that that is a reasonable timetable. We’ve moved a great distance from the time he started talking about that. And now, we’re in an area where everyone agrees we should be on a path to withdrawing those troops and he is going to begin that process as promised on that day.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He’ll give the command?
This news may come as a shock to Vice President Dick Cheney, who recently suggested that Obama “overcome” his “campaign rhetoric” when it comes to his criticism of the Bush administration’s security policies. Just last week, Cheney warned against what he called an “irresponsible withdrawal” from Iraq:
CHENEY: I think there’s still a lot of work to be done there. [...] I hear a lot of people among our critics who keep saying, Iraq’s a mess, pull out. Well, that’s not true. It’s not a mess. We have had major progress. We have come close to achieving a significant portion of our objectives. And an irresponsible withdrawal now is exactly the wrong medicine.
But, in fact, the Pentagon has already begun planning for Obama’s Iraq withdrawal timeline. “Our military planners do not live in a vacuum,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said last week. “They are well aware that the president-elect campaigned on withdrawing troops from Iraq on a 16-month timeline, so it would be only prudent of them to draw up plans that reflected that option.”