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. Cori from Colorado

    I understand that Obama has told us that there will be a few things that he just wouldn't be able to do, some promises broken along the way, but even if we have to wait another 12 months, oh well, at least it's not another decade! He's ending the war once and for all, and that's what we really want.

    As for the multitude of other issues Obama has to deal with, well, we will have to wait and see where the road leads.

    December 18, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  2. mike,texas

    How many more must die in vein? Just so a handfull can get richer.

    December 18, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  3. WELCOME TO THE OBAMA SHOW!!!!!!!!!!!!


    December 18, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  4. Archie H.

    You can bank on it considering the loathing of the military by the left !

    December 18, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  5. Peter (CA)

    Hey Obama Show-Still waiting for an intelligent, constructive comment from you. Can I have one for Christmas?

    I have a friend in Iraq. The situation changes a lot. Hopefully, PE Obama can start to move troops out but we do need to be careful of a power vacuum. My buddy told me the Iraqi troops in his region have very little incentive to take over the defense of the country so this could be a big problem.

    December 18, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  6. Seth

    It's funny that most Iraq Veterans are for the war, and would like to see it through, myself included.

    December 18, 2008 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  7. Shannon

    So another promise broken, what promise has he kept. He shelved don't ask don't tell, he has appointed dozens of lobbyist to his staff, he isn't repealing the Bush tax cuts, he has decided against the windfall profits tax on big oil, and now the troops aren't going to be home in 16 months.

    December 18, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  8. ran

    People give Obama a break he has not even taken the oath yet. If he does not get our troops out we can get him out in 4 yrs.

    December 18, 2008 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  9. Matt

    @ Welcome to the Obama Show

    Well, whatever yo may think about Obama, at least God is more likely to help us over the next 4 years...seeing as how we will no longer have a minion of satan as our POTUS.

    December 18, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  10. sunshine

    once america gets to keep the billions of dollars that the republicans and bush have been giving to iraq every month, i think then people will understand obamas plan for america.

    December 18, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  11. Matt

    @ Archie H.

    You're completely right. Us lefties hate the military so much we want our sons and daughters to come home ALIVE as soon as possible. It's not the military we hate's the errant use of force and shameless waste of human life for unjustifiable nonsense that we've got a problem with. Capiche?

    December 18, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  12. Darth Vadik, CA

    No crap Sherlock!

    December 18, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  13. GuyInVA

    Do I even have to read this? I'm sure he's just reiterating his promise to have the troops out in 16 months. That's May 20, 2010 by my calendar.

    December 18, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  14. JEAN

    Obama expected by some Americans to rescue them from everything. Wronggggg!!

    December 18, 2008 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  15. Greg

    Most of the military veterans arent for the war and haven been for many years, contrary to the guy above who said that.

    December 18, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  16. Lori

    Obama said based on the conditions. Do not compare Obama (who knows who the war is against) with George W (who invades a country for oil under the disguise of 'democracy and freedom') as the same. Whether it takes 16 months or 2- 3 years at least he's put us in the direction of getting the heck out of Iraq!

    Don't get mad at Obama. Bush and the Republicans put us in Iraq in the first place and caused this mess. McCain would have had us in Iraq for the next 100 years! It was like McCain got off on going to war!

    December 18, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  17. Mr. Lugo

    Democrat No More,

    Thank you for not being a Democrat anymore, because your an idiot.

    So the economy will turn around when Obama stops being Shady????


    December 18, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  18. Gail

    every minute that the illegal and immoral war/occupation continues means many more dead people. War is about death and nothing else – ask the families of the dead people.

    Isn't it wonderful our leaders can sling around dates and quantities for a withdrawal date while they and theirs are safe and sound but innocent Iraq people die everyday, every minute. Innocent soldiers die who were lied to. It just makes me sick
    The time to withdraw is NOW. Not later, not in 2 years, not in 16 months. NOW NOW NOW .

    If you had someone you loved die in this horrible iraq war you would know where I am coming from. I am so mad, I am so angry, I am so sad and so disappointed that the President of my country betrayed us all.

    December 18, 2008 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  19. Gail

    and there is nothing I can do about it but have a broken heart for the rest of my life.

    December 18, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  20. Clatchy

    I guess we can all say "Obama lied, people died"?

    December 18, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |


    December 18, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  22. Brad - California

    Troops could remain in Iraq beyond 2011, but "that is up to the Iraqi's..." that's our collective problem – allowing the Iraqi's to make decisions for us and to control our destiny. Get out now! Invest in America, not Iraq.

    December 18, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  23. CAW in MD

    @nom de plume,

    If on 20 January Obama said "I want all the troops out now!", how long do you think it would take to remove 150,000 soldiers, war material, equipment, etc.? How long to break down the bases, the prisons (with all the people in them)?

    Let me give you a hint - it's not instantaneous. 16 months is actually quite reasonable. 3 years isn't horrible either, since that's talking about all the troops, not just combat troops.

    So let the man operate - he seems to know what he's doing...

    December 18, 2008 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  24. bro

    yo yo yo yo respect yo elders aiiiiiiiiight? respuck.

    December 18, 2008 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  25. Marie

    Those of you that are bashing Obama would really like to see Obama fail but he won't.I think that's why you'll be with the rest of us paying for the last eight years of the Bush Administration the only thing the rest of us aren't is so stupid to know that Obama didn't put us where we are which is in a recession.The only thing Bush will be leaving you is a messed up economyy for Obama to clean up.You people are really I mean really stupid and upset because another republican wasn't elected.Haven't you learned anything after eight years or do someone have to throw a shoe at you to knock some sense into your heads.The ones you need to be bashing is Rumsfeld,Cheney,Rove,Bush and those on wall street that have drained us dry financially .McCain is back to the old John Mccain and he seems to be fed up with these liars and crooks .Your all pathedic think about those men and women losing there lives in Iraq and bringing this war to an end and stop thinking about yourself and hoping Obama fails because he may be the only hope of getting those brave men and women back home with their families

    December 18, 2008 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
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