It has been leaked that Obama will settle for a "19 Month Withdrawal" timeframe from Iraq, but when the doublespeak of politicians is accounted for, it is a 36 month withdrawal. The AP reports that Obama will keep most Troops in Iraq through 2009 and into 2010 and about a third in Iraq up until the 2011 timeframe negotiated by the Bush Administration with the Iraqi Government.
This is in contradiction to the Obama Campaign promise but aside from the purposeful political marketing and doublespeak, not necessarily a bad decision. The campaign promise was:
"I will begin to remove our troops from Iraq immediately. I will remove one or two brigades a month and get all of our combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months. The only troops I will keep in Iraq will perform the limited missions of protecting our diplomats and carrying out targeted strikes on Al-Qaeda." - Obama, 10/02/07, Chicago, see note 1 below.
Contrast that with the policy he is scheduled to announce at Camp LeJeune on Friday(delivered as expected as of this publishing):
"The administration now considers Aug. 31, 2010, the end date for Iraq war operations." ..."That pacing suggests that although Obama's promised withdrawal will start soon, it will be backloaded, with larger numbers of troops returning later in the 18-month time frame." ..."The last of the U.S. troops are to be out of Iraq no later than Dec. 31, 2011. That's the deadline set under an agreement the two countries sealed during George W. Bush's presidency." ..."Even with the drawdown, a sizable U.S. force of 35,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops will stay in Iraq under a new mission of training, civilian protection and counterterrorism." See note 2 below.
I applaud Obama for being more responsive to the situation on the ground. 2009 will be a momentous year in Iraq with multiple elections that need the stability afforded by the presence of Our Troops. Our youngest democratic ally is still fragile.
I am not in the least surprised to see that Obama is both breaking his promises to withdraw nor that
Whether he and the Joint Chiefs decide to rename Infantrymen as Military Police, Cooks, and Trainers or he renames entire brigades as "Non-Combat" Troops, the 35,000 to 50,000 Troops on the ground in 2011 will include Combat Troops. Cooks don't perform Counter Terrorism operations, nor should they be asked to do so for some politician's whim.
When a Commander In Chief makes military decisions based on political expediency rather than the ground truth, it puts the Mission and the Troops at risk, regardless of party and regardless of the political reasons. It was politics that caused Generals in 2002 to make decisions to speed towards "peacekeeping" in Afghanistan and in effect lengthen the combat there. It is politics that is leading Obama to reclassify combat troops as non-combat in 2011.
Things can get worse on the political side of the house. It was a political decision by Clinton that prevented Military Commanders in Somalia from having the tools they needed to secure the peace. His decision was based on APC's and AC-130's "appearing too aggressive" and when a Black Hawk went down, the troops on the ground had no protection.
It was political pressure that led to Generals pulling back from hot areas of Afghanistan in 2002. The emboldened enemy pushed the attack to the closest bases from where they had "won."
It is political expediency that prevents Obama from recognizing the hard won Victories of Our Troops. It is political expediency that he attempts to reclassify troops as "non-combat."
Note 2: AP, 2/27/2009, Ben Feller