After President George W. Bush leaves office January 20, Barack Obama will inherit the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have claimed the lives of over 4,500 U.S. soldiers. Obama has promised to pull all combat troops out of Iraq 16 months after he comes into office and to pullout 14 brigades – roughly 100,000 troops – by summer 2010. Obama plans to remove all units from Iraq by 2012.
Obama’s plan comes in light of growing pressure to withdraw. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki publicly announced his hopes for a withdrawal in July.
“As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned,” Maliki said. “U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal.”
Despite the Republican Party’s public disapproval of pulling troops out of Iraq, Bush administration has privately organized an exit strategy with senior Iraqi officials.
“Malaki gave an interview and said, ‘Look, we’ve already made arrangements with the Bush administration as to when we’re going to pull out, but we can’t make any public comments until after the election,’” quoted Lyn Eckert, a professor of political science at Marist College. “So we’re already going to pull out.”
Obama said that removing troops from Iraq will require tact and a lack of haste.
“We’ve got to be as careful getting out as we were getting in,” Obama said.
Raymond Odierno, Commander of the Multi-National Forces in Iraq said that a 16-month timetable for withdrawal is feasible, but should be dealt with cautiously.
“What we’ve learned from our conditions-based approach is that we have the possibility of actually moving faster than we’ve expected,” said Odierno said. “We want to ensure that we redeploy our forces in a careful manner.”
Much of the pressure to withdraw is due to an increase in deadly attacks on American troops in Afghanistan. Over 100 soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since June.
“We’re just in a bad situation right now, just from looking at reports from Afghanistan, and Iraq looks a little bit better,” Eckert said.
Dr. Louis Zuccarrello, a professor of political science at Marist College, said that he believes the U.S. needs to pull out of Iraq so that military force can be concentrated in Afghanistan.
“I think it’s necessary if we’re going to achieve objectives in Afghanistan,” Zuccarrello said. “I don’t mean by that that the troops that are in Iraq should be used because that’s a whole logistical thing that has to be followed but I think that’s the game plan and I think it’s pretty well agreed on.”
Eckert said she believes that although the U.S. should withdraw most of its troops and concentrate on the campaign in Afghanistan, it is uncertain whether Obama’s plan for pulling out would be effective.
“I don’t think we can say with certainty that we can pull out and everything would be fine,” Eckert said. “We hope that the situation ‘s stable enough and there can be real progress made now that there’s safety and people can begin thinking about freedom and building institutions and things of that nature. And I think Obama knows that, and I think that’s why he was really hesitant to make a blanket statement, although he did say that we’re going to pull out.”
Zuccarello said that he disagreed with invading Iraq, but he said that Obama will be pressured to continue the war on terror.
“The war in its inception was not a good thing, but once we’re in the dance we’ve got to dance,” Zuccarello said.