July 3rd, 2008
03:58 PM ET
6 years ago

Obama denies altering proposed Iraq withdrawal timeline

Obama denies any shift in his Iraq policy.
Obama denies any shift in his Iraq policy.

FARGO, North Dakota (CNN) – Democrat Barack Obama denied Thursday any suggestion he's shying away from his proposed 16-month phased withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq, calling it "pure speculation" and adding that his "position has not changed" - shortly before telling reporters questioning his stance that he will "continue to refine" his policies as warranted.

"We're planning to visit Iraq," the presumptive Democratic nominee said, referring to his recently-announced trip scheduled for later this summer. "I'm going to do a thorough assessment when I'm there."

Asked if that means he is, in fact, open to options that would not include the removal of all combat troops within 16 months, the Illinois senator did not respond directly, but only said he will continue to "gather information."

"I mean we can chase this around, you know, for a long time," he continued in a press conference in Fargo, North Dakota.

"What I've said repeatedly is that my goal is to end this conflict in a responsible way as quickly as possible. My 16-month timeline, if you examine everything I've said, was always premised on making sure that our troops were safe."

According to Obama's campaign website he would remove brigades at a pace of one to two per month and have "all [United States] combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months."

But on April 10 he told an Indiana crowd it may take "16 months to two years" to remove combat troops. In recent speeches, he's left out the phrase "16 months" entirely.

Pressed as to why that's been the case, the White House hopeful first laughed, then told reporters it's because he's been "focused on the economy."

Regardless, his economic theme in the last month has not prevented him from occasionally talking Iraq — and when he does, he has not brought up specific timetables.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (234 Responses)
  1. wood burns

    Is say anything politics his new position? That's why I didn't want Hillary and that is what is wrong with this country. If this continues, all the hope that a real change can be affected in this country is lost, and I will no longer believe that America's role in the world can lead to positive real changes in the way human beings treat each other. I will be through with politics forever unless I can find a way to use it solely for my advantage to the exclusion of everyone else. I will no longer have any Ideal or hope for the world. All the sacrifices that politicians have asked me/or the people for in history have been for enriching themselves and/or their buddies. I will no longer be a part of that shell game unless it is just for my enrichment. Real change? We'll see.

    July 3, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  2. Former Hillary supporter for Obama

    Leaving out the words "16 months" didn't change his stance, just the way he worded it.

    Do the math CNN. Removing 1 to 2 battallions a month would take about 16 months.

    I don't care if it takes 16 months or two years, as long as they start removing them.

    McCain wants them to stay permanently so they could have a military base in the middle east to watch over the oil they will be getting.

    July 3, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  3. James Hussein, SC

    Simply because Senator Obama hasn't talk about ending the war in Iraq does NOT change his position or views about the war. It's all just the media trying to drum up some news. We know what he wants to do; and he can not affect the war until he is in office. So, let's just back off until we can do something about the war.

    July 3, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  4. carlo

    Attention to the idiotic media: Obama is not McCain. He actually remembers what he says.

    July 3, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  5. nick CA.

    How smart is ambivalent. Let's not push him for answers. he's only a candidate. Maybe we'll find out when he's president. But for now why is he always questioned. We know he represents change and hope. Come on isn't that enough.

    July 3, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  6. Leslie

    When are we going to learn that we NEED someone in charge that is willing to change their minds as the facts change? I'm sick of the term "flip-flop", look where we are now just because someone in charge couldn't admit that a mistake was made, or new information warranted a change in policy. I, for one, would be happy to see a President that is willing to swallow his pride for the best interest of our nation and world peace.

    July 3, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  7. Last honest Man

    Scary Man...supported by very scary people. You know who you are! Just look at this Ticker

    July 3, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  8. One who knows better...

    "Smart he is"? For realizing how stupid a timeline is? And how much can he really understand in a 2-3 day visit?

    The smart man would listen to those charged with fighting this, and temper their advice with what the nation will bear.

    Running on a policy of "let's surrender" is despicable at it's best...

    July 3, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  9. Raymond Duke

    What is new for this man. Does anybody no where he stands. He changes with the breeze or what ever else that will help him. Of course I have got to watch what i say. I have never heard nothing out of his mouth except at first I didn't vote for the Iraq war. Of course he wasn't in the senate to cast a vote. The next thing he says "I will pull the troops out immiedately" . of course that has changed now like everything else. Of course you can believe in his hope and change. He changes all the time and hopes you will never pay attention to it.

    July 3, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  10. Montana is Obama Country

    Barack didn't "deny" he made himself MORE CLEAR because NEWs and media outlets like to change words and stir the pot as they are embellishing the story... thus confusion happens..

    Report the truth and you won't have this problem.

    July 3, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  11. Montana is Obama Country

    hey were is McC's lapel pin... Hold him to another standard.. Why..??

    July 3, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  12. floyd lopez

    Nothing but lies from Obama just like any other politician. And he is not smart but coy. .

    July 3, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  13. U.S. Common Sense

    It seems that Obama is beginning to understand how being the anti-war candidate is not a winning position, now that things are improving and McCain is getting credit for the "surge." The fact that he has made two press conferences on this issue shows how he boxed himself in with his campaign message of "I will end this war by 2009." Now, this probably doesn't mean he is changing his 18 month timeline, but it probably means instead of extracting most troops (as he has campaigned on), he will leave more behind if needed.

    July 3, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  14. Georgia

    If I can't vote for Clinton, I'll vote for Ralph Nader '08

    July 3, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  15. boered1

    too bad that people will continue to spew what they THINK he said instead of listening to his words. just like before when he said he will talk to our enemies without PRECONDITIONS and the press and the clintonistas twisted that to mean that he would talk to our enemies without PREPARATIONS. Obama has ALWAYS said he plans on having the major fighting forces out of Iraq within 16 months to 2 years, he has NEVER changed that view, he has also said that the speed of withdrawal and THE FORCES REQUIRED TO STAY IN IRAQ" WILL BE DETERMINED BY THE COMMANDERS AND SITUATION ON THE GROUND. So what he has said from the beginning is that he wants our soldiers, involved in combat and day to day operations out of Iraq in 16 monthsto 2 years and those involved in training and "support positions" to remain as long as they are needed. Sorry if oyu read other things into his speeches but maybe you should listen to them instead of just supposing you know what he is saying but that would mean you would listen to him and I have seen so far that most people do not listen or read.

    July 3, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  16. Bob, Hamilton

    I don't see any indication of change of plan here, do you?

    July 3, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  17. Peter E

    Next thing he may tell you is that the two years is the timeline for just the first phase of withdrawal... namely, the phase involving making stump speeches about it, while at the same time continuing to fund it the way it is... And it will end on election day when Obama's two year campaign for president finally ends.

    July 3, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  18. Shannon

    It's hysterical listening to Obama back pedal on all the positions that got him the nomination. What do you think of your messiah now, he sounds like John McCain now when he talks about Iraq. What happened to the 16 months and we'd be home. This man's word mean nothing. He lies about everything. FISA, gun control, energy policy, race in the campaign. and now the big one Iraq. LOL funny, the campaign of hope and change. What a bunch of crap!

    July 3, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  19. Bill Worcester

    It seems like Obama never says what he means or means what he says. After all this time, we only have a vague idea of his policies, and even that is subject to his constant revision. He parses his words so much that he is like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.

    July 3, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  20. Olddog

    I think we should stop pickin' FlySpecks out of the Pepper.
    I think he'll put an end to the Bush-Iraq-Money-Pit soon enough.
    It just has to stop. He'll do it.
    Elect him and let him!

    July 3, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  21. Kwikie

    If thats the case, then why did he have a solid timeline before today? If this is the right thing to do, why did he not visit Iraq earlier. What hits the spot is the recent report about things looking a bit brighter in Iraq.

    Now I do not have voting rights in the US and I am rooting for the Democrats as always. But I am just trying to add a little perspective here.

    I hope the world becomes better and what happens in the US plays a big role in that.

    July 3, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  22. Defining moment

    Obama has been very consistent on this issue. Going back to the debate in March 2008, where HRC challenged his position on Iraq; he clearly stated that as President of the United States he would start withdrawing troops at the rate of one brigade per month.

    Most importantly, he also said that he would always take into consideration the opinion of commanding officers on the ground to insure the safety and well being of US troop and personel. Or as he put it at the time, we would be as carefull coming out as we were careless going in ... I know this is hard for some people to comprehend, but seriously ...

    The GOP is once again grasping for straws ... pathetic. Why don't they just send McSame to China for the summer olympics with his buddy GW. It's not like he'll a prayer for November.

    Obama '08 & '12

    July 3, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  23. DM, Arlington TX for Barack Obama 08

    Every military service member is worth saving let bring them home safe..... McCain and Bush only care about the image of victory..

    July 3, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  24. Chris

    There is no change of timeline. The media is pulling up things that don't exist.

    July 3, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  25. Peter

    Since we have had 8 years of a "shoot from the lip" presidency, thinking through to a decision will be spun as weakness or being wishy-washy. Especially since the results have been sooooo good.

    July 3, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
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