Has President Obama Kept His Promise on Iraq Withdrawal?

August 3rd, 2010 - by admin

Julie Pace and Jennifer Loven / Huffington Post & – 2010-08-03 00:42:31


Obama: ‘Our Commitment In Iraq Is Changing’
Julie Pace and Jennifer Loven / Huffington Post

ATLANTA (August 2, 2010) — Nearing a milestone in the long and divisive Iraq war, President Barack Obama on Monday hailed this month’s planned withdrawal of all US combat troops — “as promised and on schedule” — as a major success despite deep doubts about the Iraqis’ ability to police and govern their country.

Portraying the end of America’s combat role in the 7-year war as a personal promise kept, Obama said Iraq will have 90,000 fewer US troops by September than when he took office — a steady homeward flow he called “a season of homecomings.” But there could still be more fighting involving US forces.

“The hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq,” the president said in a speech to the national convention of the Disabled American Veterans. “But make no mistake, our commitment in Iraq is changing — from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats.”

A transitional force of 50,000 troops will remain, down from the peak of 170,000 in 2007. Their mission will be to train and advise Iraqi security forces, protect US civilians, manage the chain of supplies and equipment out of Iraq and conduct counterterrorism operations.

Those soldiers and Marines will remain in harm’s way and will be likely to engage at times in some form of fighting. Iraqi commanders will be able to ask the US for front-line help.

All American troops are to leave Iraq by the end of next year, as mandated under an agreement negotiated before Obama took office, between the Iraqis and President George W. Bush.

Obama’s speech Monday was the first of many, with appearances planned throughout the month by the president, Vice President Joe Biden and other administration officials. The schedule reflects a White House eager, with pivotal congressional elections approaching, for achievements to tout, especially in areas with the emotional significance of the Iraq war.

Obama’s campaign pledge to oversee a speedy conclusion to the US fighting was the promise that most defined his presidential campaign, and it brought him significant support.

Actually, while running for the White House, he said he would remove one or two brigades a month from Iraq to achieve an end to combat operations within 16 months of taking office. Instead, shortly after becoming president, Obama settled on a slower plan, to remove all combat troops within 19 months, and not at the pace of one brigade per month but on a more backloaded timetable.

President Obama’s Iraq Withdrawal Speech: ‘Mission Accomplished 2’?
Carl Franzen / AOL News Surge Desk

(August 2, 2010) — Talk about a tough crowd. Hours before President Barack Obama was set to give a speech proudly announcing the withdrawal of “all combat troops in Iraq” by the end of August, commentators around the Web had already thoroughly chastised him for his pre-released remarks.

Though the text of the president’s speech steered notably clear of the “mission accomplished” lingo of his predecessor — emphasizing that the American “commitment in Iraq is changing,” not ending, with some 50,000 troops expected to remain on the ground come September, down from a high of 177,000 in January, according to the Associated Press — many writers still couldn’t resist bringing up Bush to bash Obama.

And indeed, as if on tragic cue, a fresh round of violence rocked Iraq on Monday, where the country’s fragile ruling coalition still hasn’t moved forward on nominating a new premier, five months after the national elections wrapped up.

Coupled with an increasingly dire outlook on the situation in Afghanistan (despite the president’s recent statements to the contrary), the overall reaction to the news could be summed up as “skeptical” at best and downright cynical at worst.


“Politically, the speech is likely an effort to draw attention to a largely unheralded success as criticism of the increasingly bloody war in Afghanistan mounts, particularly within his own party.” — Joshua Keating, Foreign Policy

“Iraq doesn’t have a stable government right now — but he still plans to make the announcement to a bunch of veterans today. He will not, however, declare “Mission Accomplished.” Probably a smart political move on his part, guys.” — Ernie Smith, ShortFormBlog

“Obama plans to hold several ‘similar events in coming weeks to draw attention to the transition in Iraq,’ which is ‘one of his most important if largely unheralded decisions.’ A decision, of course, that was made possible by his predecessor, George W. Bush. Obama will probably give Bush credit for this, right?… Oh. Well, he probably implies it somewhere.” — Dan Amira, New York magazine Daily Intel

“Bullcrap. He voted against funding the war and said in 2007 that it was lost. Barack Obama opposed the Surge. The Surge worked. Now he takes credit for it.” — Don Surber, the Daily Mail

“Since the GOP and many Americans have been blaming him for the war, we wonder if he’ll get credit for keeping his word and ending it. Nah.” — Nsenga K. Burton, the Root