Iraq Watch

By Dan Froomkin
1:20 PM ET, 02/26/2009

Ann Scott Tyson and Anne E. Kornblut wrote in yesterday's Washington Post: "President Obama is expected to announce as early as Friday that he will remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by August 2010, three months later than promised during his campaign, U.S. officials said."

Reuters reports: "President Barack Obama will deliver an address on Friday on 'the way forward' in Iraq, officials said, in which he is widely expected to announce steps to begin pulling U.S. combat troops out of Iraq.

"'We're keeping a campaign commitment,' Vice President Joe Biden told NBC television in an interview on Wednesday when asked the substance of Obama's address at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina.

"'I think the American public will...understand exactly what we're doing and I think they'll be pleased,' Biden said."

Peter Baker and Thom Shanker write in the New York Times: "President Obama’s planned Iraq troop drawdown would leave the bulk of American forces in place until early next year while some combat units would remain in place in new roles even beyond a declared August 2010 target for withdrawal, administration officials said Wednesday.

"The plan would maintain relatively high troop levels through Iraq’s parliamentary elections, to be held in December, before beginning in earnest to meet the August 2010 target for removing combat forces, the officials said. Even after August 2010, as many as 50,000 of the 142,000 troops now in Iraq would remain, including some combat units reassigned as 'Advisory Training Brigades' or 'Advisory Assistance Brigades,' the administration and Pentagon officials said.

"Mr. Obama consistently said during his campaign that he would leave a residual force for training, protection and counterterrorism missions. But the gradual pace of his withdrawal — spread out over 19 months, instead of the 16 months he promised during the campaign — and the possible size of the remaining force left some Democrats discouraged, while some Republicans cautioned against moving too quickly. The administration intends to call those remaining troops a 'transition force.'"

Thinkprogress.org shows House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show yesterday expressing doubt that so many soldiers will still be necessary in the long run: "I don’t know the justification is for a presence of 50,000 troops in Iraq. I do think that there is a need for some, and I don’t know that all of them have to be in the country. They can be platformed outside.…I would think one-third of that, maybe 20,000, maybe more than one-third, 15,000 or 20,000."

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