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Is Barack Obama softening his Iraq withdrawal time line?

Our colleague Peter Nicholas, trailing along after Barack Obama in Fargo, N.D., reports that Obama seemed just now to signal a softened position on his time line for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

UPDATE: Obama held a second press conference to say he is still committed to 16 months.

On the campaign website, Obama says he would "immediately" begin withdrawing troops from Iraq and would have "all of our combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months." But at a news conference, he was asked about concerns by some that he was backing off on that timetable.

Obama responded that he is planning a trip to Iraq to do "a thorough assessment" and consult with "commanders on the ground." Key, he said, is to not jeopardize U.S. national security interests. But he did not say that he was still committed to the 16-month timetable, and he has previously seemed to give himself a little wiggle room on the time line.

This is Obama's full response:

"These critics haven't based their comments on anything I've said or anything my campaign has said. It's pure speculation. We're planning to visit Iraq. I'm going to do a thorough assessment when I'm there. I have been consistent throughout this process that I believe the war in Iraq was a mistake, that we need to bring this war to a responsible end.

"I continue to believe that it is a strategic error for us to maintain a long-term occupation in Iraq at a time when the conditions in Afghanistan are worsening, Al Qaeda has been able to establish bases in the areas of northwest Pakistan, resources there are severely ...

... strained, and we're spending $10 to $12 billion a month in Iraq that we desperately need here at home, not to mention the strains on our military.

"So my position has not changed, but keep in mind what that original position was. I've always said that I would listen to commanders on the ground. I've always said 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."

To a second question on Iraq, he added:

"We can chase this around for a long time. What I've said repeatedly is that my goal is to end this conflict in a responsible way as quickly as possible. My 16-month time line, if you examine everything that I've said, was always premised on making sure that our troops were safe. I said that based on the information that we had received from our commanders that one to two brigades a month could be pulled out safely from a logistical perspective. And my guiding approach continues to be that our troops are safe and that Iraq is stable.

"And I'm going to continue to gather information to find out whether those conditions still hold. My job is to make sure that the strategic issues that we face, not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan, in Iran and Pakistan are all taken into account and dealt with in a way that enhances America's national security interests over the long-term."

UPDATE: McCain spokesman Brian Rogers says that Obama "has now adopted John McCain's position that we cannot risk the progress we have made in Iraq by beginning to withdraw our troops immediately without concern for conditions on the ground. There is nothing wrong with changing your mind when the facts on the ground dictate it. Indeed, the facts have changed because of the success of the surge that John McCain advocated for years and Barack Obama opposed in a position that put politics ahead of country. 

"Now that Barack Obama has changed course and proven his past positions to be just empty words, we would like to congratulate him for accepting John McCain's principled stand on this critical national security issue. If he had visited Iraq sooner or actually had a one-on-one meeting with General Petraeus, he would have changed his position long ago."

-- Scott Martelle

 
Comments () | Archives (35)

The comments to this entry are closed.

the "change" we can believe in ...

It's such a shame that people don't see his ever "changing" platform.

I finally got what he means by change. IT MEANS OBAMA CAN CHANGE HIS POSITION WHENEVER HE FEELS IT WILL HELP HIM.

What happened to the "judgment" he was boasting about?

Can you imagine what would have happened if we followed Obama's suggestion and pulled our troops in defeat last year?

Now we can see that slowly but surely we and Iraqi people wining the war against islamic terrorism.

Now tell me again, why do i need to vote for Obama?

You can account for Obama’s recent position statements in terms of moving to the Center, as candidates typically due in general elections. Or as extensions of long held beliefs, which includes the importance of compromise. However, regarding his “prudence” there is a more interesting angle. Obama and Mr. Spock have much more in common than many have assumed.

“Obama, Spock, and the New Star Trek Generation”
http://msa4.wordpress.com/

— Posted by Mitchell in NY

I already knew Obama would not bring the troops home from Iraq as he promised. This is the kind of change on issues you will continually get from this candidate who does not know what he is doing. You will never know where Obama stand on any issue, because if he think it will help him get elected, he will change change change and say whatever he thinks you want to hear. Why is this man in the running for president ?.

Number one; why would anyone fault a politician for changing their stance on an issue based on new information or public oppinion? Politicians are not supposed to do what they want, but what is best for the country and what their constituents want them to do. When Bush senior realized that it would be irresponsible to not raise taxes, even though he said he would not, he raised taxes. If Obama realizes that based on the information available to him that it would not be in the best interests of the United States to pull the troops out of Iraq in 16 months then why shouldn't he change his mind? If McCain realizes that the war in Iraq is simply too expensive interms of causualties, dollars and drain on our military, then I would expect him to change his stance on the war also.

2; Who said that Obama has changed his mind? He said that he wants to find our more about the conditions in Iraq, isn't that a good thing. I would hope that if he found out that we could get out in 2 months with no danger then he would do that. If on the other hand he sees that 16 months is an unrealistic goal then he clearly should extend the time frame.

C'mon folks! If you think O'Bama is a valid Presidential candidate...you have your head in the sand. The tea leaves have been read through Jeremiah Wright, the lapel-pin fiasco and his pandering to the Democratic Party voters to beat Hillary, who at least had a better understanding of reality without the hype of emotional appeal and crafty speech writing. We do not have four years to wait for an on-the-job training session for him. We need decisive action and moral strength as proven through the fires of political testing and in-depth understanding of the realities of global terrorism...let me say the last again...the realities global terrorism! The Democrats want to boast about electing the first black man to the highest office in the land. They haven't a clue as to what the results could be and they apparently just want to follow the loudest trumpet in the band.

I don't see how his position on ending the war has changed. How can he be expected to set a timeline when he doesn't have all the facts? I think 16 months is way to long to be out of this war, btw. I also know for a fact that Joe Q. Public does not in any way shape or form know what is really going on. We only see what government lets us see (read national security yada yada yada).

You get what you deserve!

His devious tactics succeeded over the most qualified candidate in Hillary.

Obamabots, you made your bed... YOU lay in it!

NOBAMA
Hillary or McCain '08

Obama's position hasn't changed from what those who followed him through the Democratic primary have already heard. Name one thing that he's changed?

there is no solution in Iraq, there never has been a solution in Iraq, so to say one person is wrong or one person is right about their solution or Iraq is bogus. the only solution was to not go into Iraq, and now almost 7 years later we are still there trying to save the Arabs from themselves and of course it was never about the money. There is no solution in Iraq except to get out and get out as quickly as possible. McBush has no intent to get out, Obama will get us out of there.

Wrong Frieda, sorry. The "war on Islamic terrorism" is being fought in Afghanistan. If we manage to "win" in Iraq, and we define winning as "defeating the terrorists," then we'll just be back where we started vis-a-vis the war on terror because there weren't any terrorists there to begin with.

I'd say the reason you need to vote for Obama is because McCain is a war-monger whose entire psyche is formed by war and who sees the world through that lens. He knows that Iran is in an American army sandwich (for those of you unaware, it is the only thing between Iraq and Afghanistan) and wants to take advantage of that position and start yet another war. If you're not convinced yet that the leadership of the last eight years has completely f*&@ed our country, then go ahead, vote for four more years.

By the way, did anybody see the pictures of McCain walking around Columbia wearing his baseball cap? Wow, he sure looks presidential doesn't he?

Obama now has an Iraq position no different than President Bush. Responsible withdrawal based upon advice of commanders on the ground. Of course. I believe this is a reponsible position to take. Still It is amazing that this candidate of "change" is the same old Washington Beltway politico who spins his position into the wind and finds what will get him the most votes. Disingenuous and depressing.

Neiel Baronberg, MD

I swear that during the debates, Clinton made the comment that she planned on pulling the troops out, but gradually due to the safety of not only our troops, but the innocent people that live in Iraq and the people that have helped in the cause of freeing Iraq. Obama, if I remember correctly, flat out said that he would pull the troops, period..... Now, he takes the stand of what Clinton said? Hmmmm?

His position is and always has been that we need to get out of Iraq as soon as possible. "We need to be as careful getting out as we were careless going in." He will get us out of Iraq. That is the goal, and still will be when he's elected.

To the people that want to start throwing around the term "flip-flopping" again, think about what's actually going on first. Think about your own personal goals in life and how you must adjust them based on the way things are going in reality...you change your approach, maybe your tactics, but the goal remains the same.

And that's about all anyone needs to say about that.

I was disappointed with the 16 month statement. I thought his original theme of getting out as soon as feasibly possible was better. At least he is pushing to get out of Iraq. That has not changed, nor has his belief that the war was a mistake. To all the naysayers, I say go out and drive your SUV's to haul your boats and complain about the price of gas.

I want a STRONG President... This does not mean a RIGID President... There's been NO change to his position -
He simply RE-voice the fact that the opinions and info from those commanders involved will play an important role in his plan/time-line.

I not only respect him for this stance, but will feel 1000 times safer having him in office.

Just remember Strength does NOT mean INFLEXIBLE

HA!
Who's John McCain?
What happened to that guy named Bush?
The only story in the news is "what did the likely winner of the November election do today that might chip away at his chances of wining in November."
The cat is chasing it's own tail.
The Media needs a holiday.
And I can't wait to hear what all the "end of the worlders" say when Obama is president and the world doesn't end.

The primary issue I've expressed concern about--directly to Senator Obama's campaign--is his plan to withdraw from Iraq according to a timetable. His seeming "softening," criticized as constituting that so often overblown "flip-flop" charge, doesn't bother me if indeed, as he has said in response to these questions, he has always predicated his stance based on the safety of our troops, stability in Iraq, and national security. And if so, there is really no "flip-flop."

Obama's best chance of diffusing the controversy of his seeming change of position is to support his answers of today by quoting his past statements. Central to defending today's explanation requires specific reference to his remark that his position is consistent because it "was based on the information we had received from our commanders that one to two brigades a month could be pulled out safely from a logistical perspective." What commanders told whom what when? Provide this information, and it's case closed, no defensible controversy, no "flip-flop."

Not being able to support today's explanation with such verifiable evidence presents Obama with a problem of credibility and reduces the perceived--and counted on-- gap between him and Senator McCain on this crucial issue.

Significant differences would still exist, regarding the relative importance of Afghanistan vs. Iraq is concerned, and about how to handle Pakistan and Iran, but a primary issue would be reduced as Obama moves more toward the center--toward McCain--in his call for bringing "this war to a responsible end."

"Number one; why would anyone fault a politician for changing their stance on an issue based on new information or public oppinion?"

Didn't all the Obama supporters bash Hillary during the primaries because she voted for the Iraq war and later changed her stance as more information became available and public opinion changed? What makes it ok for Obama when it wasn't ok for Hillary? Some of you seem so brainwashed that it downright frightens me.

My issue here is not that he's reassessing the situation. It's that his entire campaign has been based on changing the way things are done in Washington. Yet as soon as Hillary dropped out of the race, he started shifting to the right in order to win new supporters. Like most other politicians, he will say or do anything to win an election. How exactly is that anything other than politics as usual?

Like a one-eyed cat staring in a sea food store and a
mississipi bull-frog sitting on a hollow stump the man's got
so many options he does not know where to jump. He is
demonstrating a sure sign of an alarming primary mind,the
grass hopper mind that jumps at the slightest obstacle .
Change seems to change at every corner....hello? A
minimum amount of continuity in policy is essential for the
credibility of the USA...Hello ? Can anyone say where this bum will stand tomorrow morning.....on any controversial issue ? Is the answer blowing in the wind ?
Does this guy need a compass...hello ? Are we seeing
another demonstration of the veracity of the peter principle ? Amateurism goes un-noticed in ultra-liberal
utopic circles....that's how we got stuck with a Carter...
Now would be the worst time to show our weakeness
again. Nero,after burning Rome shouted for everyone to
hear as he was dying... what an artist dies with me !
Obama is a pyromaniac bent on remaking America from
wall to wall ashes....HELLO?

Because, you know, McCain never changed his position on anything... like torture or immigration reform. Right?

STFU NOOBS.

as long as people will accept corrupt power 'elites' to make their choices in their place, and prefer empty rhetoric and lies to solid reasoning, sober assessment and real solutions, punishing those who tell the truth and offer help - just see RON PAUL - they will get what they deserve: they'll be betrayed and robbed and enslaved with their active or passive consent.

The poor McCain campaign staff... if THIS is the only thing they can "get" Obama on, then we all know how this is gonna end. Obama had to even call an emergency press conference to deal with this head-on BS, and he never once shifted his stance on anything. The nut-jobs are already out there swinging at anything they can find, but WHIFF!!! Nothin'. The Rev. Wright? COME ON PEOPLE. Let's go back and find someone that McCain was even RELATED to that is kinda nutty. Seriously. If this is all that's wrong with Obama, think about everything that's right. And I really like a previous statement made by another blogger: Strong DOES NOT equal inflexible. Sometimes our greatest strengths come from realizing that there are many points of view, and determining which one is the best for the greater good of the country is all I have in mind for my vote for the presidency.

On McCain's behalf... I am actually quite pleased with the fact that we have two very smart people running against each other. Neither one is half-bad at all. Both would do a very good job leading the country, if you ask me.

To president Obama: you are the hope and aspiration for people around the world. Please listen to the people who care about the American people in the USA. Do not listen to the special interest.
We are an organization within the Jaff people in Iran and Iraq. We are one fourth of the population in Iraqi Kurdistan tried to contact the President Bush’s official few time, after the contact they told us that they not have any interest to help our people for democratic system in Kurdish region of Iraq. Basically they like our people to be obedience of Mr. Talabani and Mr. Barzani.
The US Government in Iraq is used by Iraqi politicians for their own interest. The wars in Iraq are costing lot of lives and tax payer money without any meaningful progress in Iraq. The Iraqi official are corrupt and abuser of Iraqi people. Mr. President doesn’t be stubborn like President Bush. Think twice before staying in Iraq. Iraq is traps by Iran now for the USA forces, get out now you will see the benefit of the withdrawal.
The Iraqi politician especially Kurdish politicians are using the American forces to get richer and richer. They not have any program to get democratic system for Iraq. The Iraqi people are hate the America for what they found themselves in now because of the wrong policy of the USA.
Mr. President you are right. The fighting should be in Afghanistan but let the Tajick, Kazak to join their mother countries and try to collect them in the Aryan (Iranian) Economic Union (AU) similar to the Europeans Economic Union (EU). Please review the successful story of the American people after the World War II. This approach will show the ugly face of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Iranian people.
We are ready to help any way we can. God bless America for its humanity and justice.
Sincerely,
Jaff Sassani
From the SKDC

Wonderful article, thanks for putting this together! "This is obviously one great post. Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have so provided here. Keep it up!"

Can you imagine what would have happened if we followed Obama's suggestion and pulled our troops in defeat last year

Can you imagine what would have happened if we followed Obama's suggestion and pulled our troops in defeat last year

the comment feed for this post.

the "change" we can believe in ...

It's such a shame that people don't see his ever "changing" platform.

I finally got what he means by change. IT MEANS OBAMA CAN CHANGE HIS POSITION WHENEVER HE FEELS IT WILL HELP HIM.

What happened to the "judgment" he was boasting about?

Can you imagine what would have happened if we followed Obama's suggestion and pulled our troops in defeat last year?

Now we can see that slowly but surely we and

Hi,
Thanks for such a timely post. I guess your article have covered all the grounds related to this issue. I liked your efforts and hard work.

Hi,
Really it provided me some unknown information and sure I accept that in reading blogs helps us to gather some good information for all the topics which improves our knowledge. Thank you.

I already knew Obama would not bring the troops home from Iraq as he promised. This is the kind of change on issues you will continually get from this candidate who does not know what he is doing.

C'mon folks! If you think O'Bama is a valid Presidential candidate...you have your head in the sand. The tea leaves have been read through Jeremiah Wright, the lapel-pin fiasco and his pandering to the Democratic Party voters to beat Hillary, who at least had a better understanding of reality without the hype of emotional appeal and crafty speech writing. We do not have four years to wait for an on-the-job training session for him. We need decisive action and moral strength as proven through the fires of political testing and in-depth understanding of the realities of global terrorism...let me say the last again...the realities global terrorism! The Democrats want to boast about electing the first black man to the highest office in the land. They haven't a clue as to what the results could be and they apparently just want to follow the loudest trumpet in the band.

I believe this is a reponsible position to take. Still It is amazing that this candidate of "change" is the same old Washington Beltway politico who spins his position into the wind and finds what will get him the most votes. Disingenuous and depressing.

C'mon folks! If you think O'Bama is a valid Presidential candidate...you have your head in the sand. The tea leaves have been read through Jeremiah Wright, the lapel-pin fiasco and his pandering to the Democratic Party voters to beat Hillary, who at least had a better understanding of reality without the hype of emotional appeal and crafty speech writing. We do not have four years to wait for an on-the-job training session for him. We need decisive action and moral strength as proven through the fires of political testing and in-depth understanding of the realities of global terrorism...let me say the last again...the realities global terrorism! The Democrats want to boast about electing the first black man to the highest office in the land. They haven't a clue as to what the results could be and they apparently just want to follow the loudest trumpet in the band.

Can you imagine what would have happened if we followed Obama's suggestion and pulled our troops in defeat last year

very goooooooooooood


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A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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