Barack Obama has spoken. The combat mission in Iraq is set to finish on August 31, 2010. Speaking at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina Obama detailed the withdraw plans that will take three months longer than his campaign promises.
Obama’s speech today drew some criticism from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as CNN reports:
“As President Obama’s Iraq policy is implemented, the remaining missions given to our remaining forces must be clearly defined and narrowly focused so that the number of troops needed to perform them is as small as possible,” Pelosi said in a press release. “The president’s decision means that the time has come at last for Iraq’s own security forces to have the prime responsibility for Iraq’s security.”
Obama says that s residual force between 35,000 to 50,000 strong will remain in Iraq after August 31, 2010. That number is upsetting many Democrats. On the other hand the plan is drawing praise from the Republican side. Over the next 18 months 92,000 to 107,000 of the troops will be heading home.
Troops will slowly be returning from now until this December. In December the national elections in Iraq will take place and the troops will be needed for extra security. After the elections the troops return home will pick up speed. Those left behind will be working on training and supporting Iraqi forces, protecting U.S. diplomats and other civilians, and conducting counter-terrorism operations.
The US troops have to be out of Iraq by December 31, 2011 under an agreement made by former President Bush. There are 142,000 troops in Iraq at this time.
Fox News reports:
“When they talk about 50,000, that’s a little higher number than I had anticipated,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said before a briefing at the White House on Thursday. Other top Democrats who expressed concern about the troop levels were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Russell Feingold.
Most of the concerns being expressed in Washington have to do with the high number of troops that will be remaining in Iraq. Both parties have spoken out on that issue.
John McHugh( New York-R) later said that Obama will revisit the withdraw if conditions in Iraq deteriorate.
“The president’s objective to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq is one we should pray for, plan for and work toward,” McHugh said in a statement.
“However, I remain concerned that the security situation in Iraq is fragile, and we should work to mitigate any risks to our troops and their mission. I specifically raised these points with the president this evening.”
Surprisingly John McCain offered praise on Obama’s plan for troop withdraw. During the presidential campaign McCain and Obama often differed on their plans on what to do in Iraq.
“We are finally on a path to success” in Iraq, McCain said. “Let us have no crisis of confidence now.”
Also joining in on the praise is House Minority Whip Eric Cantor as MSNBC reports:
“President Obama deserves credit for not listening to the chorus of voices calling for a rapid draw down of forces regardless of the consequences for Iraq, our military and the American people,” Cantor said.
The withdraw of troops will not loosen the financial load on the United States for some time. Military needs in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost the US $130 billion for the next fiscal year.