January 23rd, 2009
12:01 PM ET

Iraq: 16 months and counting?

A U.S. soldier plays with a boy Monday while on patrol in Babil province, Iraq.

A U.S. soldier plays with a boy Monday while on patrol in Babil province, Iraq.

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Wars and marriages have this is common: They are often easier to get into than out of.

President Obama is repeating his intention of getting all American combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months. The plan is posted prominently on his new White House web site (which in my opinion is hands down much more inviting and user-friendly than the site was under the Bush administration) and it says plainly: If we immediately start pulling a brigade or two out every month, by mid-2010, they’ll all be gone.

The math works. We have about 140,000 members of the military in Iraq now. Remove two brigades, or 7,000 troops, each month and that deadline will be pretty much met.

It gets even easier if you factor in the wiggle room. Note that the administration says “combat” troops. As the Commander in Chief, Mr. Obama can, in a pinch, simply redefine the role of any troops still in-country as advisors, trainers, or support and instantly the “combat” troops are no more. The Administration has even suggested this redefinition of roles may be a critical component in keeping the Iraqi military on track toward self-sufficiency.

Consider this: The Iraqis have no helicopter force, and they can’t build one that fast. We fly them all over the country. How effective do you think they’ll be if we pack up our Apaches and Blackhawks and head home?

There is also the matter of the neighbors. Iran, without U.S. forces playing big brother to the Iraqi military, could likely roll over the east side of Iraq like the Giants taking on a Pop Warner team.

Obama and Biden have also made it clear that they have no intention of abandoning our ability to gather intelligence and contain terrorist groups in the region, and that means boots on the ground.

So it is no surprise that every expert I’ve talked to who knows the region and military matters predicts that there will be thousands of American troops still in Iraq past that 16-month deadline. And let’s not even talk about Afghanistan, where Obama says he wants to increase, not decrease, our military presence.

I know this is depressing to anti-war folks, especially any who supported Obama in the belief that he was going to bring all the troops home. But in fairness, that was not his campaign message, particularly toward the end. He said that the war was ill-considered, poorly-executed, and we need to move into a new phase.

Now we are doing that. Just don’t count on all the new curtains being up in 16 months.

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Filed under: Iraq • President Barack Obama • Tom Foreman
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. KAREN

    Ithink we need to get out ASAP first of all BUSH and CHANEY lied about everything we need to pull are people out now ,and be done with it and BUSH and CHANEY need to be charged with war crimes,theyve destroyed alot of lifes good ridens to them.

    January 22, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  2. Cindy

    Obama may be saying that we will be all out of Iraq but we all know the truth. We will leave a residual group behind for some time just like we have in other parts of the world to keep peace with our presence. So it is a lie for Obama or anyone else to say that we will get all of our soldiers out of Iraq...that just won't happen!


    January 22, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  3. Randy Hill-Texas

    Bigger Than Obama!
    Tuesday was so unique in our country’s history. Everyone celebrated the inauguration of our first African-American president. And rightly so. An African-American man now resides in the White House–a building constructed with years ago with slave labor. But watching the press coverage, I could not help but notice something much more than that. There was something bigger than Obama.

    I noticed that the voice of a nation was being heard loudly. But it was a particular voice that was heard. I was moved every time I saw an African-American interviewed about the meaning of the moment. We saw veterans, including some Tuskogee Airmen, talk about fighting for their freedom and for their nation. And we saw them overjoyed at the remarkable journey that took Barack Obama from Hawaii to Illinois to the White House.

    In fact, yesterday wasn’t really about Obama; it was about America. This truly is the universal nation, where anybody can become somebody. And yesterday we showed that even the racism of our past can be overcome. Today, America is stronger than it was yesterday.

    Obama represents more than our nation’s first African-American president. He represents the truth that America can accomplish anything. The keys to the door of freedom are always open to all here in America, this greatest of nations.


    Randy Hill Texas

    January 22, 2009 at 12:28 pm |