Maddow: Obama's Iraq plan 'more like a Bush plan'
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Wednesday February 25, 2009

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President Barack Obama is expected to announce on Friday that he intends to withdraw roughly two-thirds of US troops from Iraq by August 2010. This anticipated 19-month timetable falls well short of Obama's campaign promise to have all troops out of Iraq by sixteen months after his inauguration.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow suggested on Tuesday that the administration was hoping for the Iraq news to be "sort of buried" in the excitement over Obama's speech on economic issues before a joint session of Congress. However, she did not believe this tactic would be successful.

"I do think they expect ... a little bit of heat from the left on this, from the anti-war majority in this country," Maddow explained, "and I expect that the timing of this announcement will not be enough to dampen that criticism. ... It looks very much more like a Bush plan than it did like a Barack-Obama-the-campaigner plan."

The statement on Iraq at Obama's campaign website reads:

"Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased, directed by military commanders on the ground and done in consultation with the Iraqi government. Military experts believe we can safely redeploy combat brigades from Iraq at a pace of 1 to 2 brigades a month that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 more than 7 years after the war began.

"Under the Obama-Biden plan, a residual force will remain in Iraq and in the region to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda in Iraq and to protect American diplomatic and civilian personnel. They will not build permanent bases in Iraq, but will continue efforts to train and support the Iraqi security forces as long as Iraqi leaders move toward political reconciliation and away from sectarianism."

The plan that is expected to be announced this week is being described as "a compromise between the 16-month withdrawal timetable President Obama advocated during his campaign and the military's proposal for a 23-month time frame." General Ray Odiermo, the top US commander in Iraq, had pressed for the 23-month plan in hopes of avoiding having to withdraw any US forces at all before next fall's Iraqi elections but finally conceded to a 19-month schedule.

"You do something like this when you don't want this news to survive the very competitive news cycle to make it onto the front page of tomorrow's papers," Maddow commented. "This is a really big, important announcement. This is how the Iraq War ends, and it is essentially going to be buried by this speech tonight."

In addition to extending the timetable, the latest plan also defines the 'residual force' as consisting of up to 50,000 troops, who will remain in Iraq to perform training, logistics, and other non-combat roles. Maddow was also skeptical of this apparent shift.

"I think they are going to try to minimize the importance of this," she suggested, "and say, 'Oh, so we said that everybody but a residual force would be out by June of next year. It turns out what we meant was that 50,000 Americans will still be there in August of next year.' ... That doesn't seem to be to be close at all."

"If they do want to get subtle," Maddow concluded, "and they do want to get honest and they do want to have high expectations for what we can understand about national security and war, they will talk about why 50,000 troops is a 'residual force' -- why we need that many people there for that long and what our troops are actually going to be doing."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Feb. 25, 2009.

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