Saturday, July 26, 2008

McCain: Statement Welcoming Barack Obama's "Entirely Conditions-Based"Iraq Withdrawal

Today, Randy Scheunemann, McCain 2008 senior foreign policy adviser, issued the following statement welcoming Barack Obama's latest shift to an "entirely conditions-based" withdrawal from Iraq:

"Today Barack Obama finally abandoned his dangerous insistence on an unconditional withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by making clear that for the foreseeable future, troop levels in Iraq will be 'entirely conditions based.' We welcome this latest shift in Senator Obama's position, but it is obvious that it was only a lack of experience and judgment that kept him from arriving at this position sooner.

"John McCain has always held the position that any withdrawal from Iraq must be based on conditions on the ground. With the incredible success of the surge, which John McCain advocated, it is increasingly likely that U.S. troops will be able to withdraw with victory in hand. John McCain had long urged Barack Obama, who opposed the surge, to return to Iraq in order to see the immense changes in the security situation there since his last visit. Now that Obama has finally met with General Petraeus, it appears that he has also come to the conclusion that troop levels in Iraq must be based on the conditions on the ground."

NEW TODAY: In An Interview With Newsweek, Barack Obama Says Future Troop Levels In Iraq Should Be "Entirely Conditions-Based." NEWSWEEK'S RICHARD WOLFFE: "You've been talking about those limited missions for a long time. Having gone there and talked to both diplomatic and military folks, do you have a clearer idea of how big a force you'd need to leave behind to fulfill all those functions?" BARACK OBAMA: "I do think that's entirely conditions-based. It's hard to anticipate where we may be six months from now, or a year from now, or a year and a half from now." (Richard Wolffe, "Obama's Sober Mood," Newsweek,, 7/26/08)

· Barack Obama Previously Pledged That "All" Combat Troops Would Be Removed From Iraq In 16 Months. "In order to end this war responsibly, I will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. We can responsibly remove on to two combat brigades each month. If we start with the number of brigades we have in Iraq today, we can remove all of them 16 months." (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks On Iraq, Fayetteville, NC, 3/19/08)

Barack Obama And His Advisers On Future Troop Levels In Iraq

Colin Kahl, The Head Of Obama's Working Group On Iraq, Has Called For An "Overwatch Force" Of 60,000 To 80,000 Troops In Iraq. "Now Mr. Obama tells us that the 16-month timeline is contingent on (1) "[making] sure that our troops are safe and that Iraq is stable" (my emphasis), and (2) the opinion of "the commanders on the ground." Also in question is the size of the "residual force" that the Illinois senator envisions for Iraq after the bulk of U.S. forces is withdrawn. Will it be an embassy guard, plus some military advisers and special-ops forces? Or, as suggested in a March paper by Colin H. Kahl, who runs Mr. Obama's working group on Iraq, an "overwatch force" of between 60,000 and 80,000 soldiers?" (Bret Stephens, "Obama's Nixon Reprise," The Wall Street Journal, 7/8/08)
Some Of Barack Obama's Advisers Said That A "Residual" Force Could Be As Much As 50,000 Troops. "How big would this more or less permanent 'residual' force be? Obama did not say, but advisers leaked that it could reach 50,000. That would be far too much for the candidate's net-roots to swallow, but a token force of around 2,000 would be ludicrous. Obama will face a test of how he handles this after he meets in Iraq with the esteemed Gen. David Petraeus." (Robert Novak, Op-Ed, "In Iraq, And Under The Spotlight," The Washington Post, 7/21/08)

Obama Advisers Are Signaling That His Troop Withdrawal Plan Will Be More Flexible Than His Previous Policies. "A top defense adviser to Barack Obama is recommending that significant 'residual' U.S. military forces remain in Iraq to ensure its stability, an emerging policy shift that is angering the Democratic Party's anti-war left and has Republicans charging 'flip-flop.' As the level of violence has dropped dramatically in Iraq and receded as a top issue in the 2008 presidential election, the Obama campaign and its advisers are sending what Democratic defense analysts describe as 'tantalizing hints' that his troop withdrawal plan will be far more flexible and gradual than his earlier calls for a complete pullout regardless of the situation on the ground." (Donald Lambro, Op-Ed, "Obama Aide Signals Shift On Troop Withdrawal," The Washington Times, 7/8/08)

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