Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, speaking at a rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Wednesday, October 22, said, "finally after six years, George Bush is now backing the plan that Barack Obama suggested, which is to set a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq and turn over responsibility to the Iraqis. That's the agreement we're negotiating now."
Get the facts!
The Bush administration has consistently opposed setting "artificial" timelines for U.S. troop withdrawals. It repeatedly has stressed that withdrawals need to be based on conditions in the country, such as the improving the performance of Iraqi security forces.
Citing improving security conditions, the Bush administration on July 18 began calling for a "general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals" for troop withdrawals. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino on October 17 told reporters the administration had been working on "aspirational" dates for troop withdrawal.
This comes as the United States and Iraq this year have been negotiating a "status of forces" agreement, a bilateral pact that will spell out the U.S. troop role in Iraq after a U.N. mandate governing their role expires on December 31.
A draft of the agreement - obtained by CNN last week - includes withdrawal dates based on the improved performance of Iraqi security forces and their "taking over" security responsibilities. The draft agreement says that U.S. combat forces "should withdraw" from Iraqi cities and villages by July 30,
2009, and U.S. forces "should withdraw from Iraqi territories within the deadline of December 31, 2011." The draft includes a mechanism for both sides to cut or extend the time period for the combat troop withdrawals. It also allows the Iraqi government to ask the U.S. government "to leave certain forces for training and for support purposes for the Iraqi forces."
In his Colorado remarks, Biden outlined the troop withdrawal proposal now under negotiation, but failed to mention the keystone of Obama's proposal - that troops would be withdrawn in 16 months.
Biden and Obama have called for a "responsible and phased" troop withdrawal from Iraq. "We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010," Obama said in a New York Times column on July 14 titled "My Plan for Iraq." They believe a commitment to troop withdrawal should be a major underpinning of status of forces negotiations. The campaign supports a "residual force" for missions against al Qaeda in Iraq, "protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces," the Times column said.
The Verdict: Misleading. The Bush administration, like the Obama campaign, is considering a troop withdrawal timetable. But the Bush proposals are based on security improvements in Iraq, while Obama's are based on a 16-month timetable.