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Obama troop plan has some skeptics

BY AMANDA McCLURE | MARCH 3, 2009 7:20 AM

Contending that Iraq’s future is its own responsibility, President Obama pledged an 18-month timetable for troop withdrawal last week, but he will leave potentially 50,000 soldiers in Iraq for up to a year after the August 2010 deadline.

“I don’t think leaving that many troops and permanent bases is exactly what his supporters had in mind during the election,” said Lori Nelson, a volunteer coordinator for Peace Iowa. “It’s better than what we have now, but a couple years down the line, if we still have a significant number of troops abroad, some people may become disillusioned.”

Though the withdrawal schedule is consistent with Obama’s campaign, the troops that could stay behind in Iraq for an additional year isn’t.

Nelson said an incomplete removal of U.S. troops and organizations would garner suspicions that the United States is trying to control the Iraqi government or its oil resources.

The Iraqi Status of Forces agreement requires all troops to be out by 2011, but some of those troops may be relocated to other countries throughout the region, such as Afghanistan.

“Redistribution is probably the most likely thing to happen: As we draw down in one theater, we’re going to put troops in another,” said John Mickelson, a UI Veterans Association adviser.

UI Antiwar Coalition member David Goodner said getting troops out of Iraq can’t be a haphazard process for the United States.

“The peace movement needs to start balancing its attention between Afghanistan and Iraq,” he wrote in an e-mail. “It needs to be tied to domestic concerns back here at home like the global economic crisis and catastrophic climate change.”

Despite Democrats’ worries that Obama is veering away from his original campaign, UI Antiwar Coalition member Robert Ehl said Obama’s campaign was always loose on a timetable for troop withdrawal.

“Obama was framed as an antiwar candidate throughout the election, but if you listen to him during his campaign, he was specific about not removing troops too fast,” Ehl said.

Greg Baker, the Iowa Federation of College Republicans chairman, agreed that Obama’s current goals are consistent with his message during the general election.

“He’s sending more troops to Afghanistan as Iraq is beginning to stabilize,” Baker said. “Afghanistan has been spending time on the back burner, but it’s a center of the war on terrorism at this point.”

A similar troop-redistribution strategy was initiated in Iraq after the 2006 election, he said. Obama’s call for up to 30,000 troops in Afghanistan is consistent with strategy in the Iraq war after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stepped down.

Ehl said a complete withdrawal of troops is imperative to ending violent activity in the area.

“Unless they’re taking hammers and saws instead of M16s, we’re not interested in further troop deployments,” he said. “Their job is combat and nothing else.”


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