Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama continues to try to distance himself from his primary campaign proposal of having all troops out of Iraq in 16 months. In an interview with the Military Times Obama was asked the timing and strategy involved in withdrawing the troops from Iraq.
“It’s very hard to anticipate what it’s going to be like six months from now. We saw how rapidly things have changed over the last six months, because of not only the extraordinary work of our armed forces, but also the shift in attitudes of tribal leaders in places like Anbar, the Mahdi army’s decision to — for now at least — to stand down the more aggressive posture that the Maliki government took in going into places like Basra,” Obama said.
Obama said withdrawal could happen quickly if the situation in Iraq continues to improve, “So if current trends continue and we are at a position where we continue to see reductions in violence and stabilization and continue to see some improvements on the part of the Iraqi army and Iraqi police, then my hope would be that we could draw down in a deliberate fashion in consultation with the Iraqi government at a pace that is determined in consultation with General Petraeus and the other commanders on the ground.”
However, he made it clear that if things deteriorate in Iraq, the troops might not come home so quickly, “It strikes me that that is something we could begin relatively soon after inauguration. If, on the other hand, you’ve got a deteriorating situation for some reason, then that’s going to have to be taken into account.”
Obama has made it clear that he opposes this war, and that he wants to end it, but what has also become very clear is that Obama isn’t committed to having all of the troops out in 16 months. This shift makes his position a lot closer to one Hillary Clinton took, and many liberal Democrats rejected, during the primary campaign. I completely understand that Obama doesn’t want to stick to a firm timeline then get bitten by it later if he doesn’t get all of the troops out on time, but this is quite a switch from his earlier rhetoric, and he seems to have left the door open for a slower withdrawal from Iraq.