The pre-election pledge of Pres. Obama to pull combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months without residual forces has changed to 19 months with 50,000 residual forces remaining — though Obama could remove all troops within a year if he wanted to.
AntiWar.com – “Obama to Leave 50,000 Troops in Iraq Indefinitely” – 26/27 Feb 09:
President Obama’s Iraq “withdrawal” plan will leave up to 50,000 troops in a warzone engaging in combat missions. Today the president detailed the plans for members of Congress, and said the remnant forces, which would remain for an indefinite period of time, will be in Iraq to “advise Iraqi troops and protect US interests.”…
During the campaign the president spoke repeatedly of a 16 month timetable, but backed off of it almost immediately after taking office. The current plan would spell a significant cut in ground troops in 19 months, but leaves open the question of when (or even if) the Obama Administration ever intends to formally leave the nation.
Scott Horton interviews Gareth Porter, independent researcher and contributor to IPS, on AntiWar Radio – 27 Feb 09 (15:39):
Inter Press Services – “Drawdown Plan May Leave Combat Brigades in Iraq” by Gareth Porter – 27 Feb 09:
Obama declared, in a speech at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina that by Aug. 31, 2010, “[O]ur combat mission in Iraq will end”. But he confirmed earlier indications from administration officials that the residual force would be from 35,000 to 50,000 troops – far higher than Democratic congressional leaders had previously been led to expect by Obama….
Obama also stated, “I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.” But Gates, and the top commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, have both indicated on the record that they wanted to keep U.S. troops in Iraq even after that date, based on the assumption that the Iraqi government will renegotiate the Status of Forces agreement (SOFA).
NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reported just before Obama’s speech that discussions had taken place in the Kirkuk area between some U.S. military commanders and Iraqis “to establish what could end up as a permanent air base, U.S. air base, in Kirkuk.”…
The freedom granted to Odierno and Petraeus on the residual force overshadows his concession to the generals and Gates in accepting the recommendation for 19-month timetable for withdrawing combat brigades….
Obama provided no further details on the residual force. According to the Washington Post report published Friday, two unnamed “senior officials” – one of whom was presumably Secretary Gates – told Congressional leaders Thursday that Obama would let commanders decide not only the exact schedule of withdrawal of combat brigades but the size of the residual force.…
A reporter asked Gates, “You have said they’re not going to be combat brigades, but are you going to take combat brigades that are in the United States and sort of rename them, redesignate them, or are you going to create new units for this specific mission?”
Gates first sidestepped the question entirely. “[W]ith respect to the 35,000 to 50,000,” he said, “I think that that’s a question probably better directed at General Odierno.” But he then added, “[I]n terms of whether those are new units or whether they are re-missioned units that are already there, I think remains to be seen.”…
The Washington Post reported that the senior administration officials who briefed Congressional leaders Thursday said that Obama’s “senior civilian and military advisers” – meaning Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen – had recommended both the 19-month drawdown plan and the size of the residual force.
SOFA also keeps immunity in tact for the US State Department officials and those it contracts who’ve brutalized the people. Iraq has banned Blackwater mercenaries from Iraq, but this is a different administration. Change, right?
The State Dept. has been aggressively looking for Blackwater replacements.
A large criticism of the Bush administration and Iraq were VP Cheney’s direct links to Halliburton — contracted in Iraq. One of Halliburton’s babies, Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR) has received a $35.4 million contract from the US Army to rebuild in Southern Iraq amidst investigations of its connections with the deaths of 18 people (including two US soldiers), recently settling to pay $579 million in fines for violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in their relations with Nigeria, and accusations of knowingly exposing US soldiers to toxins — as many as 433 of whom may be affected.
The empire isn’t going away. It’s just getting a face-lift.