Whither Iraq

A lot was said this week by Obama on what he would do with troops in Iraq. It started with the statement:

“I’ve always said that the pace of withdrawal would be dictated by the safety and security of our troops and the need to maintain stability.”

“That assessment has not changed. And when I go to Iraq and have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I’m sure I’ll have more information and will continue to refine my policies.”

Then he said:

“Let me be as clear as I can be, I intend to end this war. My first day in office I will bring the Joint Chiefs of Staff in, and I will give them a new mission, and that is to end this war — responsibly, deliberately, but decisively.”

“And I have seen no information that contradicts the notion that we can bring our troops out safely at a pace of one to two brigades a month, and again, that pace translates into having our combat troops out in 16 months’ time.”

And finally he said:

“After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces.”

Wow. That’s lots of stuff. Let me summarize what he said. First we have three items that indicate that we will leave regardless of any consequence:

  1. pace of withdrawal would be dictated by the safety/security/protection of our troops
  2. end this war deliberately
  3. end this war decisively

My translation: “RETREAT!!!!!”

Now we have four more items that indicate that the goal is to achieve some actual outcome:

  1. pace of withdrawal would be dictated by the need to maintain stability
  2. end this war responsibly
  3. go after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia
  4. so long as the Iraqis make political progress, train Iraqi security forces

My translation: “Never mind, carry on!”

So he is going to ask the Joint Chiefs to carry on the goals of the war, but without any troops. I think this really is what Obama wants to do. We will end the war, remove the troops, and then we will make Iraq stable, defeat Al Qaeda, and train Iraqi forces by … I don’t know. I guess that’s where his thinking ends.

Update 7/19/2008

I have seen much confusion about Obama’s policy in Iraq versus what is going on there. It seems that the locals might want us out in the time-frame that Obama suggested. But the fact remains that Obama has stated and reiterated that his goal is single-minded: leave Iraq as quickly as possible so that OUR TROOPS remain safe. He has gone out of his way to say that the safety of the local population in Iraq is not relevant to him until after we have left.

McCain insists that the U.S. should win the war first, then remove the troops. In the last couple of days he seems to be saying that we might be there already. Ironically, McCain’s insistence to send more troops to Iraq (the “surge”) is giving more credibility to his opponent’s rhetoric about leaving Iraq. McCain stated this week that he would prefer to lose the election and win the war, than the other way around. He may just get his preference.

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