December 18th, 2008
04:10 PM ET
9 years ago

Plans for U.S. combat troops in Iraq could change under Obama

Gen. David Petraeus hosted then-Sen. Barack Obama on an aerial tour of Baghdad when Obama visited Iraq in July of this year.

Gen. David Petraeus hosted then-Sen. Barack Obama on an aerial tour of Baghdad when Obama visited Iraq in July of this year.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The military has prepared an initial plan for withdrawal from Iraq that meets the demands of the recent agreement with Iraq, but appears to contradict the wishes of President-elect Barack Obama.

Generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno, the top commanders in Iraq, briefed Defense Secretary Robert Gates on plans for the withdrawal of the 146,000 troops in Iraq, when Gates visited the country last weekend.

In turn, Gates and Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed Obama this week about "the way ahead in Iraq," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Thursday.

That briefing was a "point of conversation" during the 5-1/2 hour national security team meeting Monday in Chicago, a senior military official said.

An Obama transition official confirmed that Mullen discussed the "current plans developed under President Bush."

Among those attending the meeting were Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton, Vice President-elect Joseph Biden and Gen. James Jones, Obama's choice for national security adviser.

The meeting covered a "whole range of topics," including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East, the transition official said.

The current withdrawal plan proposes removing all U.S. combat troops from Iraqi urban areas in 2009, and all American troops from Iraq by 2011, in keeping with the recent Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, signed by President Bush, according to the senior military official.

The agreement with Iraq details withdrawals for 2009, 2010 and 2011, the official said. It proposes removing troops at a slower pace than Obama promised during the campaign, when he called for all combat troops to be out within 16 months - by the summer of 2010.

The senior military official said the current plan reflects the fact that Bush, who told the military to develop a plan consistent with SOFA, still is in charge. Obama might seek to speed up the troop withdrawal once he becomes president, the official explained.

The Obama transition official agreed, noting that there there "is only one commander-in-chief at a time" and that Gates and Mullen still work for Bush.

"Until the military gets different orders from the president, that is what they are working for," the transition official said.

The transition official noted that there is not much difference between the two plans and, in fact, the SOFA planning is more aggressive because it assumes all troops will be out by the end of 2011.

Obama has called only for combat troops to be out by mid-2010, with a residual force remaining behind to help train Iraqi troops, protect U.S. interests and conduct anti-terrorism missions.

While "there will need to be a discussion about SOFA" and some "tactical adjustments" when Obama takes office, "the reality is that they are on the same glide path," the transition official explained.

Gates told reporters at a press conference in early December that he was "agreeable" with Obama's time frame of 16 months for all combat troops.

"He (Obama) also talked about a responsible drawdown and that he was willing to listen to the commanders," Gates said early this month.

Morrell, the Pentagon spokesman, said current planning could change over time, depending on conditions in Iraq, and they could choose to "tear up that agreement and negotiate a new one for a longer period of time."

In an interview Wednesday on PBS' "Charlie Rose" show, Gates said it was possible troops could remain after 2011, but that it is up to the Iraqis.

"They are a sovereign country and if they tell us after the end of 2011, 'We want you all out,' I think we have no choice but to do that," Gates said.

"When I think of the support that they are likely to need for their air force, for the navy, for counterterrorism, for the continued training, for intelligence, for logistics and so on, my guess is that you're looking at perhaps several tens of thousands of American troops," Gates said, "but clearly in a very different role that we have played in the last five years."

Filed under: Iraq • Obama transition
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. Democrat No More

    Man I wish Obama wasn't so shady, so we could get this economy turned around.

    December 18, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  2. BB

    Funny – I could have sworn Obama said many times that it would depend on conditions on the ground. You all spinning again CNN?

    December 18, 2008 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  3. Rachel

    Rome wasn't built in a day and besides...all this economy came about not because of Obama but the Shady higher ups of each bank, company, etc. I feel he has a better chance at it. The guy (Obama) is no dummy. He's surrounding himself with brilliant people and I do believe is a perfectionist. My confidense is in Obama.

    December 18, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  4. EW

    He's doing and will continue to do exactly what he did in the Senate. A whole lot of nothing.

    December 18, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  5. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Obama has called only for combat troops to be out by mid-2010, with a residual force remaining behind to help train Iraqi troops, protect U.S. interests and conduct anti-terrorism missions.

    Who exactly conducts anti-terrorism missions if not combat troops?

    December 18, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  6. Leah

    For the past 8 years, GW didn’t just dig a hole, he was completely buried you and others in your country, dead or alive.
    A goodbye kiss from a pair of shoes, couldn’t do enough justice
    Bush was the worse shady president ever.
    He is going down in American history for years to come as one of the worse, shady, insane president.
    Frankly, it doesn’t matter how shady Obama is, he couldn’t’ be worse than GW Bush.

    December 18, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  7. Veronica

    I hope that means he bring the troops home sooner.

    December 18, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  8. Rachel

    After all we've done for Iraq and they want us out of there....I say I'm Outta Here! Let's see what they can do. One thing could be they need to learn manners. Our troops don't need to keep sacrificing for the likes of them.

    December 18, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  9. boered1

    so the bush cronies tried to slide one by Obama, thank goodness he is honest and straight forward and caught the liars at their game! With this man in charge there is NO DOUBT that the economy and the country will finally turn around and get headed in the right direction!

    December 18, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  10. nom deplume




    December 18, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  11. steve for positive change

    This will be a critical situation how to get all troops deployed safely. The withdraw should have been planned before starting this STUPID war. I pray that it goes smoothly , but if not ALL THE BLAME will be on Obamas shoulders (which is just wrong). We should not have been there in the first place, so I will always point my finger at the CURRENT ADMINISTRATION. PLEASE PRAY FOR OUR TROOPS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL

    December 18, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  12. Gerda Edwards

    Surprise, surprise, surprise...not.

    Obama NEVER talked about an unlimited "responsible drawdown," he only talked about a specific time period of within 16 months "to be done in a responsible manner" – that's May 2010.

    It was McCain, Bush, Maliki, and others who talked about a responsible pullout without a specific deadline.

    December 18, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  13. Texas Teacher

    Democrat No More...... ARE YOU LOSING YOUR MIND? Surely you are not going to try to blame the economy of Obama... I cannot believe my ears.... have you been living under a rock the last 8 years.....

    Hold on... wait a minute! Cindy, is that you again, Girl? *sigh* suck it up.... your man LOST! *LOL* Fast your seat belt and get ready for the Ride!

    December 18, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  14. steve for positive change

    SHADY ?

    December 18, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  15. tom

    Nothing is wrong with that.

    December 18, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  16. GM

    Start the list of broken promises.

    December 18, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  17. No Hillary = No Obama

    Obama would have promised the moon if he thought that would get him where he is now.

    December 18, 2008 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  18. No Hillary = No Obama

    Obama would have promised the moon if he thought that would get him where he is now.

    December 18, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  19. WELCOME TO THE OBAMA SHOW!!!!!!!!!!!!

    GOD HELP US FOR THE NEXT 4 YEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 18, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  20. Carl from MI

    He will be Commander-in-Chief and the military will do whatever the heck he tells them to do!! He'll be pulling them out of Iraq and re-deploying many of them to Afghanistan... where they should have been this whole time!

    The Iraq war will be over the day Obama steps foot into the White House... and Dubya will go down in history as one of our nation's worst presidents who started a war he refused to end, cost the lives and body parts of close to 20,000 of our young soldiers, and wasted how many BILLIONS of dollars JUST TO GO AFTER SADDAM, BECAUSE SADDAM WENT AFTER DADDY? THANK YOU, DUBYA!!

    I'll be rooting for you during your war-crimes tribunal...

    December 18, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  21. Carl from MI

    Man I wish Dubya wasn't so shady, so we wouldn't have to get this economy turned around BECAUSE IT WOULDN'T HAVE TANKED IN THE FIRST PLACE!!


    December 18, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  22. No incumbents 2010

    Did "Change we can believe in" mean I'm going to change my mind several times you can believe me!

    December 18, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  23. Tim

    To GM – "Start the list of broken promises"

    What are you on? Obama has said all along that he wants to pull the troops out of Iraq within 16 months. He also made clear that it was condition based. That we would need to keep some troops there to train the Iraqi's. There is a big difference between his plan and Bush's. Bush's plan wants to just pull them out of Cities. Obama will pull them out of Iraq, and leave just enough to train the Iraqi's. Please get your facts straight before you spout of at the mouth...

    December 18, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  24. BO is just B.O.

    Only way to make Bush look good is time and Obama.

    December 18, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  25. From PA

    what do you expect from a typical politician...say what people want to hear to get elected than when elected to whatever you want....if people question you....just play the race card....all is well

    December 18, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
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