Obama Pledges No Residual Forces After 2011

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Feb 27, 2009 at 12:37

In his speech on Iraq redeployment today, President Obama pledged to have all troops, including "residual forces," by the end of 2011. It doesn't start that way, but it ends that way:

Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.

Of course, then President Obama follows this sentence with a detailed description of American military actions in Iraq after August 31, 2010. It is the standard residual force operation we have discussed here on Open Left since our inception, and is anything but an end to the American military presence in Iraq after August 2010:

After we remove our combat brigades, our mission will change from combat to supporting the Iraqi government and its Security Forces as they take the absolute lead in securing their country. As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq . Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops.

But the important departure comes next, when President Obama pledges that this residual force will itself be continually decreasing in size, and eventually reach zero troops by the end of 2011:

Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

This is what I have been waiting for: a commitment to end the residual force operation by the close of 2011.

More in the extended entry.

Chris Bowers :: Obama Pledges No Residual Forces After 2011
In September of 2007, President Obama refused to promise to remove all troops from Iraq by January 20th, 2013. Now, he has promised to remove them all by December 31st, 2011. That is a positive shift.

This is huge for no residual forces proponents. Now that President Obama has made this pledge, in public, it will be difficult for him to go back on it. This is especially the case since turning back on a promise with a deadline of December 31st, 2011, means violating a pledge during 2012--the year President Obama will be running for re-election. Anti-war proponents need to be prepared to raise holy hell during 2012 if this promise is not kept.

It is frustrating that it took the Iraqi government, rather than internal anti-war pressure, to finally secure a no residual troop promise from the American government (and they actually succeeded in wringing it out of the Bush administration, something Democrats were entirely unable to achieve). Still, as someone who has opposed the Iraq war for more than six years, and who been has writing about the need for no residual American military forces in Iraq for more than two years, any promise of no residual forces from the American government, backed up by a binding, public document like the Status of Forces Agreement, it an extremely welcome development no matter how it was secured.

The Iraq war is going to end. No residual troops after 2011.

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Does this mean no permanent bases? (4.00 / 6)
If so, he should say so, because nothing is more important.

And to fully end our imperial presence he needs to do away with the embassy.

The 104-acre compound, bigger than the Vatican and about the size of 80 football fields, boasts 21 buildings, a commissary, cinema, retail and shopping areas, restaurants, schools, a fire station, power and water treatment plants, as well as telecommunications and wastewater treatment facilities.

The compound is six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York, and two-thirds the size of the National Mall in Washington.

It has space for 1,000 employees with six apartment blocks and is 10 times larger than any other U.S. embassy.


he did say this to the Iraqi people today: (4.00 / 2)
"The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources."
That's pretty clear in saying they can do what they want with their oil.  Does the "territory" part mean we don't want to set up bases there, as well?

John McCain <3 lobbyists

[ Parent ]
I would say this nixes bases (4.00 / 3)
It's hard to have bases if there's no one to occupy them.

Still, one little nit is this bit of Bushian rhetoric:

"The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources."

Bush said that all along, so I wish Obama would have chosen another way of saying it. But I'm nitpicking.

Still, if we can take this at face value, I would say this is great news.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
Hard to imagine (4.00 / 5)
It is hard to imagine how one could have permanent bases outside the embassy if there are no troops in those bases.

I've never understood why people have a difficult time grasping this. No residual forces is bigger than no permanent bases.  

[ Parent ]
Easy on the condescension: not appealing. (3.00 / 4)
As I said, if this means no permanent bases--a position he took in the campaign--he should spell it out clearly.

The status of forces agreement has many loopholes, and you can imagine Obama using them to maintain a base "at the invitation of our new ally, the sovereign nation of Iraq."

All I'm looking for is clarity, silly me.

In any case, as I said, we are already keeping one base in the form of the embassy, a imperial monstrosity that perpetuates the occupation.

[ Parent ]
No (4.00 / 2)
This is an argument we had before, back in 2007.

"No permanent bases" is smaller than "no residual troops." The former is a subset of the latter.

You can't have bases without troops. I don't know why that isn't clear to you.

If there are no residual forces, then the question of permanent bases becomes moot.

[ Parent ]
We never had this argument before (2.00 / 2)
The disagreement you're thinking of was about something else.

[ Parent ]
Time to admit that you're wrong! (0.00 / 0)
No troops = no bases.  Come on, own up.

[ Parent ]
we have permanent bases in tons of countries -- w/tons of troops -- (4.00 / 2)
why would Iraq be different? All it takes is a statement and/or agreement with whatever government is there allowing it.

Especially because we took all our bases out of Saudi Arabia -- and built (to last) gigantic bases in Iraq.

[ Parent ]
Right (4.00 / 7)
I admit that I'm influenced here by my cynicism, not about Obama but about the US's imperial machine. I have trouble believing that the US won't maintain bases in Iraq as it does in dozens of countries about the world.

I would love to be wrong but, sorry, Obama's declaring his "intention" to remove all troops doesn't convince me I am.

Time will tell.

[ Parent ]
i'm with you 100 % -- and the Pentagon has been weasels about this for ages -- (0.00 / 0)

The Bush administration has assured Congress that it does not seek to establish "permanent" U.S. military bases in Iraq. But an exchange yesterday among Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), State Department Iraq coordinator David Satterfield and Assistant Defense Secretary Mary Beth Long at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing suggests that permanence lies in the mind of the beholder: ...

Long: I have looked into this. As far as the department is concerned, we don't have a worldwide or even a department-wide definition of permanent bases. I believe those are, by and large, determined on a case-by-case basis. . . .

Webb: Well, I understand that. But basically my point is it's sort of a dead word. It doesn't really mean anything.

Long: Yes, Senator, you're completely right. It doesn't. . . .

Webb: We've had bases in Korea since 1953, anyway, and I would be hard-pressed to say they're permanent. How long is permanent? We have bases in Japan under a security agreement, but we are relocating a lot of those to Guam, so I wouldn't say that they are permanent. So to say that these won't be permanent bases really doesn't go to the question of what they will be. It goes to the question of what they won't be. And what we're saying they won't be is a dead word.

Long: Senator, you're exactly right. I think most lawyers . . . would say that the word "permanent" probably refers more to the state of mind contemplated by the use of the term.

[ Parent ]
here's the translated text of the SOFA -- it's not as clear as people think -- (4.00 / 1)
and they can terminate or make a new one anytime

McClatchy -- http://www.mcclatchydc.com/hom...

on bases  (but there's lots more)  --

... At withdrawal, the U.S. will return all the installations and the agreed upon areas allocated for the use of the U.S. combat forces according to two lists (of inventory) to the Iraqi government. The first of these is to be submitted covering the installations and agreed upon areas as soon as the agreement is implemented. And the other list is to be submitted no later than June 30, 2009, the appointed date for U.S. Forces withdrawal from cities, towns and villages. And the Iraqi government has the right to permit the U.S. Forces to use some necessary installations for this agreement's purposes at withdrawal. ...


[ Parent ]
A lot of things that are hard to imagine (0.00 / 0)
actually come to pass. But, be that as it may, let's look at this sentence again:

"As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq ."

I read this as an open-ended commitment. Especially when, later, it is said, "And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011."

So, the US will retain a transitional force to train Iraqis as long as they are conducting missions and protecting ongoing efforts, even though President Obama intends to pull them all out.

Is there any question that the Iraqis will still be conducting missions and protecting ongoing US efforts in 2011? Is there any question that a President who has gone out of their way to be flexible and thoughtful, could begin to reconsider what the word "all" actually means, and whether it might be A.OK to leave a few thousand folks behind, just to keep an eye on these huge military bases we've so recently invested all those hard-earned US tax dollars on, dontcha know.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Exactly (4.00 / 1)
I think one of the reasons the rubber is meeting the road is that we can't fricken afford to have troops in Iraq.  In this sense Obama faces the same choice LBJ did: he can downsize any domestic ambitions or he can end an unnecessary war.

I think it is fair to say you have had some impact on the debate on Iraq.

That is a pretty profound achievement.  

[ Parent ]
Also (4.00 / 3)
"intend to" is a clear wiggle-room phrase.

You can argue that well, he can't predict the future, but his language about bring "combat troops" home is much more definitive.

[ Parent ]
There is no wiggle room (4.00 / 3)
He promised to remove all troops at the end of 2011. If he does not, then he has broken that promise. It is that simple.

[ Parent ]
Nope (4.00 / 2)
v. in·tend·ed, in·tend·ing, in·tends
1. To have in mind; plan

An intention is not a promise.

Pols pick words carefully. We ignore their specific meanings at our peril.

[ Parent ]
This is politics, not the OED (4.00 / 4)
What is he going to say "I intended, but failed." "I intended, but changed my mind."

In politics, saying you intend to do something is the same as a promise.

Meaning is determined by context. If he leaves American troops in Iraq after 2011, then he failed to live up to his own words and will suffer politically as a result.

[ Parent ]
Alright, my final comment on this (4.00 / 2)
as we're arguing about the meaning of a single word.

He could have said all troops would be out by 2011. He didn't. He said he intended to get them out, and yes, whether we're talking politics or the OED--especially in politics, actually--there's a difference. (Remember Obama's saying he didn't break a promise on public financing because he never said he'd promise to do public financing but only that he'd promise to try?)

I know this has been a focus of your activism for a while, and it's been a worthwhile admirable effort. I'm just not quite ready to declare victory, and won't be until the final man or woman comes home. Till then eternal vigilance.

[ Parent ]
The magnificant Hunter S. Thompson said upon hearing of Nixon's demise. (0.00 / 0)
"I won't believe he is dead until I gnaw on his skull."

I admired Hunter, I have appreciated his deep insight into the craziness of our times, of the times we may be coming out of, I appreciate the madness that was necessary to see as clearly as he saw, and the courage that gave him and us.

If Obama is as good as he seems to be, and that isnt as good as some writers would want, but giddy making good still, then he really does seem to be doing what he promised in a whole heck of a lot of important things.

I think he is moving in the directions he is announcing. As he is impressing no one but us progressive activists with the announcements. Public opinion is probably to the right of many of our positions. So on this I'm convinced Chris is right. President Obama has moved a long way closer to the progressive position we have wished for him to take, in weeks after being elected.

You can and should be wary, but dont think he hasn't announced your position, he has. You should still watch to make sure he lives up to his promise.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
on Iraq we've wanted out for ages tho -- for years (4.00 / 1)
the majority of Americans are not to the right on Iraq at all -- on many big things they're to the left -- from Iraq to govt-provided healthcare to not wanting trillions for wall st. to infrastructure to being anti-freetrade to ...

[ Parent ]
I am not to your right. (0.00 / 0)
Nor I am concerned that you are wary, nor am I doubtful of your knowledge of history's proof of your thesis. Hunter S. Thompson rightly knew that if there was mojo anywhere, it would be called into service in returning that vile predator prince to his unrightful throne, with peril to us all.

I am easing, I hope, the pain of your duty to provide oversight, not your honor in providing it. The ground has shifted, and the wall you defend is now within the walls of the city and we stand with you, and the authorities you call upon fpr accountability actually defnd the same ground.

Demand accountability, demand better than mere promise keeping, but know where we stand, and credit where its due.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
I think what you're missing is (4.00 / 7)
Chris is not declaring victory and not forsaking vigilance. He's saying Obama has committed himself now, and it's up to us to hold him to it.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
we can't hold him to it -- we can only vote against him in 2012 -- (4.00 / 1)
if he decides in 2011 to make a new agreement or that it's too violent there or whatever to leave, it won't matter who is against it. They'll give some reason, and it'll happen regardless.

(and it looks like jobs and the economy will be what people will be voting on then, and judging him on)

[ Parent ]
or not give money or time. that is the real power we (4.00 / 1)
have over obama in 2011/12.  

[ Parent ]
it's not really -- he won't be primary-challenged and needs far less (4.00 / 1)
than they needed this cycle -- and he will have hundreds of millions from all the companies that benefit from what he does now -- and thru 2012.

He won't need armies of volunteers either -- he has the whole Exec branch, the DNC, and even more absolutely-guaranteed media access.

It'll only be voting -- to keep him in, or throw him out.

[ Parent ]
You and I and Obama have no idea what battle is forming, nor the stakes nor the players. (0.00 / 0)
A week is a century in politics, no hero lasts long in the acid of the natiopnal glare. Every advantage is temporary, every defeat is permanent. The powers of Obama's teams know, even as much as does he, the shine of his princely leadrship depends heavily on the belief that he is doing his best to be a honest broker, a clear eyed idealist with enough grit to acheive great things.

Being caught out as a mere politician would be harmeful to that trust. He knows that. He would not spend it lightly. he would not forsake the committed workers like you David and I, not that of Natasha, Michael or Paul for headlines in the paper. He might not keep a promise, we have seen it, but spending that goodwill when he doesn't have to? I think not.
And now, as Chris so insightfully points out, he has made a new promise, one that is radically different from even his primary days of promising much to progressives, and a promise he dindt need. He is too smart to do that when he knew it would be a liability if he planned to break it. See? he didnt need to place this marker, it would cost him if it was a fake, but he did, and for the first time.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
and if he doesn't and keep his promises (0.00 / 0)
I'm sure you'll find some other reason not to vote for him in 2012.  

[ Parent ]
he promised many things -- and broke many of those easily -- (4.00 / 1)
he doesn't have any kind of good track record on keeping his promises.

[ Parent ]
I assume you mean except Marines guarding the embassy (4.00 / 2)
since we have that in every other country as well (officially called the Marine Embassy Guards).

I'd note that the size of the embassy, as well as higher chance of instability, will mean a more robust presence than elsewhere (although I can't imagine it would be more than 1500 or so troops).  

Saxby Chambliss  

[ Parent ]
Right (4.00 / 3)
The massive size of the embassy--and the fact that it sits in a country we invaded and occupied--means it's something else entirely.

[ Parent ]
He is required to by (4.00 / 1)
The Treaty.

So our occupation lasts three more years and we're supposed to cheer?  The direction is correct, but the pace is too slow and the residuals are too many.

That's not just raidcals.  It's Pelosi and Reid.

The Silence of the Liberals

As Obama launches "war on terrorism" II

by Justin Raimondo


Antiwar voters who cast their ballots for Obama have succeeded in rolling the stone all the way up a rather steep hill, only to see it fall down the other side - and we are right back where we started. The next hill is called Afghanistan, and beyond that is yet another: Pakistan.


Yes, In Our Name.

[ Parent ]
and Iran -- (4.00 / 1)
Iran is another reason why we'll have bases in Iraq for many years to come.

[ Parent ]
Please! (0.00 / 0)
A politician that doesn't thrive on wiggle room?  

Pull the other one...

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
"combat mission" is wiggle-room too -- very -- and we already know there'll be combat troops staying (4.00 / 1)
and that many troops from non-combat brigades and units were put into "combat" roles all along -- as well as reserves and guards too.

and for years they've been saying we're there to support Iraqis and to train their forces and to provide security, etc. -- it hasn't been described as a "combat mission" or "combat missions" for years.

This is his "mission accomplished" for sure -- and he knows full well that that the SOFA is not enforceable by Iraq in reality.

[ Parent ]
"Combat mission" (4.00 / 5)
End the "combat mission" has always been code for leaving a residual force. In this passage, President Obama uses it in the same way. He will end the combat mission, but leave a residual force, after August 2010. It is the same crap we have been hearing for a while.

What is different is the next sentence quoted. "All troops" is different from "combat troops" in this passage. "All troops" is code for no residual forces.

[ Parent ]
Indeed (4.00 / 2)
This is a comprehensive promise.  It's a real milestone, and more than I expected from President Obama.  It's more than he promised during the campaign.

[ Parent ]
and "residual" forces ? (0.00 / 0)
what if they're not "residual", but fresh, shiny, new troops for the bases?

We rotate troops in and out all over the world all the time, no? And in and out of duty, too.

[ Parent ]
he didn't say "no residual troops," he said "no troops" (4.00 / 2)
even shiny and new ones.  

[ Parent ]
While you're right that (4.00 / 1)
Obama is making a considerable and even bold promise here, the real issue is whether he will keep it.

That's really always the problem, of course, with bold promises; that's why so few politicians utter them.

Push will come to shove on this matter when Iraq starts to ratchet up the violence while or after we start to withdraw all troops.

That's when Obama's promise will be tested.

Let's see then if he sticks to his promises here. My guess is that he won't.

[ Parent ]
huh (4.00 / 4)
It's almost as if Obama, who campaigned on a platform of getting troops out of Iraq, national health care reform, and raising taxes on the wealthy to fund his priorities, is governing on a platform on getting troops out of Iraq, national health care reform, and raising taxes on the wealthy to fund his priorities.

This isn't directed at Chris, but: why is everyone so shocked and surprised?

Because (4.00 / 6)
Because, during the campaign, as I linked above and spent two years discussing, he never promised to remove all troops from Iraq by the end of his first term. Never.

This is a change. And I am happy for it.

[ Parent ]
zactly. i have to say, as someone who argued that obama (4.00 / 2)
would govern in a more progressive manner than many feared (with good reason), i'm feeling pretty vindicated this week.  

[ Parent ]
Speaking just for myself (4.00 / 4)
I was pretty worried that Obama was going to back away from his commitments on Iraq.  Some of the initial statements that came from his transition team and the decision to keep Gates on very much worried me.

I guess I share some of David Mizner's cynicism about this.  

Committing to removing all troops from Iraq at a date certain strikes me as a signficant given the last few months.  

[ Parent ]
The proof of the pudding (2.00 / 2)
will be what Obama does when "democracy" in Iraq starts to breakdown, and violence escalates, as American forces recede.

I see Iraq as a coiled spring waiting to be released, now suppressing inherent ethnic rivalries, much as was the former Yugoslavia.

The question is, and always has been, will Obama stick to his plan when it will be made to look politically as if he is "cutting and running" in the face of a collapse in Iraq?

It's always easy to withdraw in a situation like this when everything continues to look rosy. When things turn ugly, it's quite another story.

This was always going to the real test -- for any Democrat who might be President.  

Just to add a point (4.00 / 1)
If anything, one of the more unfortunate political downsides of the current "peace" in Iraq is that the public now thinks of that as being the baseline expectation.

If things become violent as our forces withdraw, it will be easy to cast that withdrawal as giving up on our responsibilities in Iraq, and refusing to stick to a plan that is working in bringing about democracy and peace in Iraq.

If Iraq were perceived as an ongoing highly violent country, it would be easier for Democrats to declare democracy and peace as a hopeless task for which American troops should not be risking their lives.

Basically, this puts only more pressure on Obama to keep in the troops, or bring them back, if Iraq descends into violence.

[ Parent ]
things are still deadly there tho -- it's just not reported or front-paged -- (4.00 / 2)
our troops are still dying there  -- http://www.usatoday.com/news/w...

January 09 casualties -- note they're not "combat" troops -- http://www.usatoday.com/news/w...


Jan. 26

• Four soldiers died when two U.S. helicopters crashed in northern Iraq.

Jan. 24

• Army Sgt. Kyle J. Harrington, 24, Swansea, Mass.; died Saturday in Basra of injuries from a non-hostile accident in his unit motor pool; assigned to the 542nd Maintenance Company, 80th Ordnance Battalion, 593rd Sustainment Brigade, Fort Lewis, Wash.

Jan. 22

• Army Pfc. Matthew M. Pollini, 21, Rockland, Mass.; died at Forward Operating Base Delta, near al-Kut, Iraq, of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over; assigned to the 772nd Military Police Company, Taunton, Mass.

Jan. 18

• A soldier died of wounds suffered from a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad.

Jan. 17

• Senior Airman Omar J. McKnight, 22, Marrero, La.; died from non-combat causes in Balad; assigned to the 6th Security Forces Squadron, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. ..

[ Parent ]
It's quite true that Iraq still suffers from (2.00 / 2)
considerable violence, but the political perception of the American public is that it is relatively calm, peaceful, and democratic.

Of course, if the factions in Iraq see the true enforcers of the calm -- the American troops -- as removing themselves from the equation, their own calculations of the effectiveness of violence dramatically changes.

The contrast between the current public perception of Iraq and what is likely to take place should we withdraw will exact great political punishment on any politician who is seen as responsible for continuing that withdrawal.

I just very much doubt that Obama has the stomach for that kind of punishment.

While I give him real credit for promising the right thing, I also recognize that the promise isn't the deed.

And, to take back a little bit of the credit I give him, I have to suspect that Obama really doesn't see clearly the long term political consequences of his current promise.

I would say that the promise only extends an approach I see in Obama that portends no ultimate good: making policy and promises today that garner him praise today, but will hurt him politically in the long run. Thus I see his inadequate stimulus package as such an item, as well as his claim he will cut deficits in half by 2013 as being further examples of this myopic (or perhaps just rosy dreamy) approach.

[ Parent ]
yup -- and it's like requiring family members to consent to media access too -- (0.00 / 1)
Taking pics of coffins at Dover won't be possible == unless the media knows whose body it is, which means the Pentagon would have to tell them beforehand, and the families' consent would have to be given by the time the coffin lands -- and that's not "lifting the ban" at all.

The Pentagon would stay there forever rather than leave without some kind of "victory" (which is still not defined) -- and Obama totally doesn't have the balls to go against them (or even wants to -- he is still placing it on them instead of making decisions on this himself).

[ Parent ]
"so long as there is an Iraqi perimeter fence, even if it is manned by only one Iraqi soldier, around a US installation, then Iraq and not the US is in charge." (0.00 / 1)
... The US had previously denied it wanted permanent bases in Iraq, but American negotiators argue that so long as there is an Iraqi perimeter fence, even if it is manned by only one Iraqi soldier, around a US installation, then Iraq and not the US is in charge. ...
-- http://www.independent.co.uk/n...  
-- June 08 -- US issues threat to Iraq's $50bn foreign reserves in military deal

"long-term access, as at other U.S. bases abroad, is different from "permanent," and the official U.S. position is carefully worded." (0.00 / 1)
http://www.azstarnet.com/news/... --  Huge bases raise question: Is U.S. in Iraq to stay? -- 2006 --

... The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, and other U.S. officials disavow any desire for permanent bases. But long-term access, as at other U.S. bases abroad, is different from "permanent," and the official U.S. position is carefully worded.

Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter, a Pentagon spokesman on international security, told The Associated Press it would be "inappropriate" to discuss future basing until a new Iraqi government is in place, expected in the coming weeks.

Less formally, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, asked about "permanent duty stations" by a Marine during an Iraq visit in December, allowed that it was "an interesting question." He said it would have to be raised by the incoming Baghdad government, if "they have an interest in our assisting them for some period over time."

In Washington, Iraq scholar Phebe Marr finds the language intriguing. "If they aren't planning for bases, they ought to say so," she said. "I would expect to hear 'No bases.' "
Right now what is heard is the pouring of concrete.

In 2005-06, Washington has authorized or proposed almost $1 billion for U.S. military construction in Iraq, as American forces consolidate at Balad, known as Anaconda, and a handful of other installations, big bases under the old regime.

They have already pulled out of 34 of the 110 bases they were holding last March, said Maj. Lee English of the U.S. command's Base Working Group, planning the consolidation.
"The coalition forces are moving outside the cities while continuing to provide security support to the Iraqi security forces," English said.


Al-Asad will become even more isolated. The proposed 2006 supplemental budget for Iraq operations would provide $7.4 million to extend the no-man's-land and build new security fencing around the base, which at 19 square miles is so large that many assigned there take the Yellow or Blue bus routes to get around the base, or buy bicycles at a PX jammed with customers.

The latest budget also allots $39 million for new airfield lighting, air-traffic-control systems and upgrades allowing al-Asad to plug into the Iraqi electricity grid - a typical sign of a long-term base.

At Tallil, besides the new $14 million dining facility, Ali Air Base is to get, for $22 million, a double perimeter security fence with high-tech gate controls, guard towers and a moat - in military parlance, a "vehicle entrapment ditch with berm."

Here at Balad, the former Iraqi air force academy 40 miles north of Baghdad, the two 12,000-foot runways have become the logistics hub for all U.S. military operations in Iraq, and major upgrades began last year.

Army engineers say 31,000 truckloads of sand and gravel fed nine concrete-mixing plants on Balad, as contractors laid a $16 million ramp to park the Air Force's huge C-5 cargo planes; an $18 million ramp for workhorse C-130 transports; and the vast, $28 million main helicopter ramp, the length of 13 football fields, filled with attack, transport and reconnaissance helicopters.

Turkish builders are pouring tons more concrete for a fourth ramp beside the runways, for medical-evacuation and other aircraft on alert. And $25 million was approved for other "pavement projects," from a special road for munitions trucks to a compound for special forces.

The chief Air Force engineer here, Lt. Col. Scott Hoover, is also overseeing two crucial projects to add to Balad's longevity: equipping the two runways with new permanent lighting and replacing a weak 3,500-foot section of one runway.

Once that's fixed, "We're good for as long as we need to run it," Hoover said. Ten years? he was asked. "I'd say so."

[ Parent ]
MSNBC just said Gates had a conf call and said it wasn't definite, and (4.00 / 2)
that they may renegotiate the agreement -- can't find a link tho.

Gates -- " 'The date provides a way of delineating when one mission in Iraq ends and a completely new and different one begins" (0.00 / 0)


...  Defence Secretary Robert Gates told reporters on a conference call after the speech that Obama weighed the risks involved in setting a timeframe for a pullout against the need for more troops in Afghanistan and the stress that already exists on the US military.

'The date provides a way of delineating when one mission in Iraq ends and a completely new and different one begins,' Gates said. 'It's important for our troops to know. It's important for the Iraqis to know.'  ...

[ Parent ]
unclear which date (4.00 / 1)
The way the story is worded, Gates could be talking about the Aug. 10, 2010 date rather than the end of 2011.

I agree, though, that the Status of Forces agreement is renegotiable, but I think the Iraqi government would have to initiate for a renegotiation to be successful: I doubt any Iraqi government would be willing to be seen as caving to a U.S. request to remain after 2011. If the Iraqi's were able to get Bush to agree to the end of 2011, they have enough power to reject any idea from Obama to renegotiate that agreement.

[ Parent ]
if they're only in power bec of us tho, they'll agree -- (0.00 / 1)
and the current govt is only in power bec of us -- Sunni-Shia problems, Kurds against all the rest, Religious groups, etc --  

our presence -- and our paying off many groups -- is keeping a lid on potential civil wars that have always existed there.

Obama's only listening to the Pentagon -- not to Iraqis -- anyway. Why would that change? (and US oil companies still don't have the contracts they all want)

[ Parent ]
well... (4.00 / 2)
Legally, the current govt is in power because they won the election. The fact that they were able to negotiate an agreement with the Bush admin. for US troops to be out at the end of 2011 means that the legal basis for the current governments power is stronger than the underwriting by US troops.

Obama is promising to listen to the Iraqi's and not just to the Pentagon - I don't see any other way to read his statement. And he's also saying that as of now he sees no reason to anticipate that the status of forces agreement will be renegotiated: he intends to go through with complete withdrawal under the terms of that agreement. Gates's statement undercut him a little on that point, but whatever Gates thinks, the Iraqi's will have a pretty strong hand at the negotiation table.

If the Iraqi government decides that they don't have the security apparatus to maintain control without the U.S. military, they will negotiate some way of maintaining a foreign military presence. But it's in the Iraqi government interest to negotiate that under the auspices of the U.N. And it's in Obama's interest as well.

I'm not so cynical as to think that Obama has no respect for international law.

I think the main takehome message from Gates's statement is to pressure Obama to get rid of Gates in a year.

[ Parent ]
Gates should have been replaced Jan 21 -- it's another reason to doubt (0.00 / 0)
all Obama's "pledges" on this. And the SOFA was a Bush thing to begin with.

And if it's true that Obama did assure GOP Rep McHugh what he did (see my comment below with the quote), then there's even less reason to believe his words today.

[ Parent ]
we can also threaten to not give aid too -- and we pay other countries and lease the space -- (0.00 / 0)
this news the other day laid out how we get and keep them in non-First World countries --

U.S. Searches for Alternative to Kyrgyz Base -- http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02...

... The Obama administration scrambled Wednesday to come up with an alternative to a crucial United States air base in Central Asia, used to supply the growing military operation in Afghanistan, after the president of Kyrgyzstan ordered the American base in his country closed.

Defense and State Department officials said they had concluded that Russia had pressed Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, to expel the Americans. Russia has promised not to impede the American-led fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but has also sought to push United States forces out of bases it began leasing in Central Asia in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Kyrgyz Parliament planned to vote next week on a measure that would close the base at Manas, a major air hub for troops and cargo. Loss of the base would present a significant problem for the Obama administration as it deploys as many as 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan over the next two years. Taliban attacks have made another prime supply route to Afghanistan - an overland pass through Pakistan - highly unreliable.

A senior State Department official said that negotiations with Kyrgyzstan over the base had been halted and that the alternatives under consideration included bases in Europe and the Persian Gulf, as well as a possible expansion of existing bases in Afghanistan.

The United States has leased the Central Asian base since after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, but American officials said they believed that Russia was using an offer of more than $2 billion in loans and grants to Kyrgyzstan to force the United States out of the region, colloquially referred to as "the Stans."


The United States calculates that it pays Kyrgyzstan more than $150 million in assistance and compensation each year. But the State Department official said that only a portion of that money went directly to the Kyrgyz government. "Frankly, we haven't been excessively generous," the official said.

The State Department official said that "fundamentally it comes to money, and the Russians are trying to buy us out." ...

[ Parent ]
today -- "Iraq Appeals for Foreign Oil Expertise" (0.00 / 1)
what timing, no?


Iraq's prime minister appealed Friday for foreign expertise to develop his country's oil industry, which has suffered from decades of war, negligence and insurgent attacks.

Nouri al-Maliki said the country needed a review of its oil policy and a legal environment that would encourage investment from international oil companies.

''We are in dire need of your expertise and proposals,'' al-Maliki told Iraqi and foreign oil experts at a conference to discuss Iraq's oil policy. ...

So US oil companies could also want our troops to stay too.

[ Parent ]
more from Gates, & Obama: promised McHugh (GOP Rep) "if the security situation deteriorates, the President had a "Plan B" and would "revisit" the withdrawal plan." (0.00 / 1)
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t... -- Democrats dismayed by Obama's decision to leave 50,000 US troops in Iraq

... Not made explicit in the speech was the amount of flexibility Mr Obama is giving himself in the plan. First, few troops will be withdrawn until after December's parliamentary elections in Iraq.

Mr Gates also called the August 31 deadline next year a "way station", an indication that it could be shifted. Under an agreement between the US and Iraq, all US troops must be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. Yet Mr Gates also indicated that a new agreement with the Iraqis was not out of the question.

John McHugh, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said that he had been assured by Mr Obama that if the security situation deteriorates, the President had a "Plan B" and would "revisit" the withdrawal plan. ...

[ Parent ]
I'd be careful of the Times of London... (4.00 / 1)
Keep in mind that they are owned by News International Group, which is itself owned by News Corporation, a.k.a. Rupert Murdoch.

So the info should be taken with a huge chunk o' salt.

[ Parent ]
here's the NYTimes with the same exact thing -- (0.00 / 0)
... Representative John M. McHugh of New York, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Mr. Obama had reassured him that he would revisit his plan if circumstances changed.

"The president's objective to withdraw U.S. combat forces from Iraq is one that we should pray for, plan for and work toward," Mr. McHugh said. "However, I remain concerned that the security situation in Iraq is fragile, and we should work to mitigate any risks to our troops and their mission." ...

-- Iraq Withdrawal Plan Gains G.O.P. Support -- http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02...

[ Parent ]
Ah, Okay. (0.00 / 0)
It's a good idea to listen to more than one source.

[ Parent ]
it totally is -- and it fits a pattern of privately walking back public statements too -- (0.00 / 1)
on many issues, going back to 07 or even earlier.

Obama talks big and bold and sounds definite, and then it turns out he privately told the GOP or business people or the Canadians or whoever that he didn't really mean what he publicly told us.

[ Parent ]
McCain too "praised Obama's willingness to leave behind a significant residual force and reassess the situation if conditions change in the future." (0.00 / 1)
...  McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that a "failing situation in Iraq has been arrested and reversed" due to the "dramatic success of the surge strategy," referring to then-President Bush's plan in 2007 to send additional troops to Iraq.

He also praised Obama's willingness to leave behind a significant residual force and reassess the situation if conditions change in the future. ...

-- http://edition.cnn.com/2009/PO...

[ Parent ]
and CQ politics -- ""The president assured [McHugh] he will revisit the tempo of the withdraw, or he will revisit the withdraw plan if the situation on the ground dictates it," (0.00 / 0)
... A spokesman for House Armed Services ranking Republican John M. McHugh of New York said Obama was pressed on the issues of protecting security gains and offering military leaders the flexibility to do so. Obama's answers offered some reassurance, the spokesman said.

"The president assured [McHugh] he will revisit the tempo of the withdraw, or he will revisit the withdraw plan if the situation on the ground dictates it," said the spokesman. "The president assured him that there was a plan B. He didn't go into what the plan B was, but I think ... it would be to slow down." ...

-- http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmsp...

[ Parent ]
Alright! You made your point! (4.00 / 2)
I was only initially skeptical because the story you linked to was reported in a Murdoch rag. I just needed one other newspaper for confirmation. No need to beat a dead horse!  

[ Parent ]
sorry -- it's very important tho -- this is not a "pledge" or a "commitment" -- (2.00 / 2)
and i'm already sick of Obama making big pledges and promises and statements -- and then privately telling others he really didn't mean it or that it was just a lie or rhetoric, etc.

[ Parent ]
Disappointing, not frustrating (0.00 / 0)
It is frustrating that it took the Iraqi government, rather than internal anti-war pressure, to finally secure a no residual troop promise from the American government (and they actually succeeded in wringing it out of the Bush administration, something Democrats were entirely unable to achieve).

Why is that frustrating? I think it's a good thing that the Iraqi government was able to push back against Bush. It's disappointing that the Democrats copped out (or that the truly anti-war democrats didn't have enough strength in government) to wring this out of Bush. But it actually is a great thing that the international institutions were/are strong enough that the Bush administration was unsuccessful at setting up a puppet government: the Iraqi government, despite widespread corruption, a boycott of elections by a significant minority in the population, a security apparatus unable to operate on its own, etc., etc. STILL had enough power as a governmental entity to reject a permanent foreign troop presence. I don't find that frustrating at all - that's a good thing.

Another point that seems to be missed in the responses to this post: this shows a commitment to international agreements by Obama that is as refreshing as the honesty in his budget. He is promising to respect, rather than ignore, an agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi government. I do think his statement leaves a little wriggle room, in that the Status of Forces agreement is subject to renegotiation. But Obama is clearly saying that he will not act unilaterally; I hope that means that it would take a request from the Iraqi government to renegotiate the Status of Forces agreement and that the Obama administration will not try to pressure the Iraqi government to renegotiate.

But if, in the next 2 years, the Iraqis decide that their security forces are not sufficient to maintain order, prepare for Obama to negotiate some way for U.S. forces to remain.

Intending and doing are two different things (4.00 / 1)
The best intentions often fall aside when reality rears its head.

If those troops stayed well past 2011, I would not be surprised.

I for one am happy (4.00 / 1)
because it reduces the probability of a redeployment; I was single the first time, now I have a family to take care of.

The 19 months makes anti-war folk happy without giving enough time for things to fall apart and become a right-wing wedge issue.

The all troops out by 2011 allows for Congressional Elections to verify the will of the people.

Some worry about a descent into civil war; I don't think so. The Shi'ites and Kurds will dominate their respective parts of the country and rule with an iron fist.

Our overall diplomatic situation will strengthen; allowing us to accomplish our goals at a much reduced cost in lives and treasure.

Let it be known that the "conservatives" had a choice between Iraq and America, and they chose Iraq.

They won't be forgiven.

Wow, an extensive thread about residual forces in Iraq (4.00 / 2)
and not a single commenter questioned whether Iraqis really want us to stay.
Matthew Yglesias:
"41 percent of Iraqis say they 'strongly oppose' the presence of Coalition forces in Iraq and 31 percent 'somewhat oppose' their presence"

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

I think that really is the point (4.00 / 1)
Obama's withdrawal statement is couched in terms of the Status of Forces Agreement. I think it's safe to assume that he would only stay in Iraq if it's clearly within international law to do so. He can have US forces until the end of 2011, but without renegotiating the Status of Forces Agreement it makes little difference what Obama wants or what the Pentagon wants or what the oil barons want: Obama will obey international law. And it's hard to imagine the Iraqis renegotiating to allow the US force to remain as a US force.

I don't think it's too hard to imagine the Iraqis deciding they need international help to maintain order after 2011, and negotiating a new deal for an international force with UN backing. And if that happens, it's hard to imagine that the US won't be a major part of that international force.

The danger point will really be if the democratic Iraqi government falls - there will obviously be strong arguments in the Pentagon and CIA for the US to intervene to prop up somebody they have convinced themselves is more our friend than the alternatives. That's when we'll find out what Obama's principles really are.

But I don't see Obama keeping us in Iraq to maintain regional influence, or to exploit the oil.  

[ Parent ]
1 2 3 4, We don't want Obama's War (0.00 / 0)

Generals may be very good at coup d'etat, but they don't have many votes.

Time to hit the streets, Children.

If John McCain thinks this plan is a good idea, you know very well it's not.

Remember LBJ.

Statement from the IVAW (4.00 / 1)
IVAW Wants to See Obama Call for a Complete Withdrawal from Iraq

As an organization of Global War on Terror veterans and Active Duty service members, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is pleased that President Obama is taking important steps to bring our fellow service members home. However, his plan to slowly remove combat brigades over the next 18 months and leave a remaining 35-50,000 troops throughout 2011 is a plan for almost three more years of an unjustified military occupation that continues to claim the lives and livelihoods of our troops and innocent Iraqis.

President Obama speaks of a change in mission, from a combat role to a support role, but yet still leaves room for "conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions" with a portion of the transitional forces remaining combat-ready. He also does not include a timeline for removing the more than 150,000 private defense contractors and mercenaries still in Iraq, nor does he address the question of disallowing permanent military bases.

His plan is also coming at a time when 17,000 more troops are being deployed to Afghanistan. He says he understands service members have "[born] the heaviest burden," but how is he alleviating that burden by removing troops from Iraq only to ask them to fight in an escalating occupation in Afghanistan? The longer that both of these occupations continue, the more difficult it will be to meet the needs of our returning veterans who are already suffering from inadequate care and a lack of resources.

We must ensure that U.S. control of Iraq, which today is accomplished primarily through military force, is not maintained over the longer term through the use of more subtle legal, financial, economic, or political means. "The Iraqi people deserve the dignity of full sovereignty and control of their own nation," says Kelly Doughery, Executive Director of IVAW and former Military Police Sergeant, "and the only way to give this to them is by the immediate and complete withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq - this means withdrawing all military personnel, troops, and defense contractors, closing all military bases, ceasing air operations, and removing American interests intent on controlling Iraqi oil resources."


Drawdown Plan May Leave Combat Brigades in Iraq (0.00 / 0)
Drawdown Plan May Leave Combat Brigades in Iraq
Analysis by Gareth Porter*

WASHINGTON, Feb 27 (IPS) - President Barack Obama has given military commanders a free hand to determine the size and composition of a residual force in Iraq up to 50,000 troops, apparently including the option of leaving one or more combat brigades or bringing them from the United States, after the August 2010 deadline for the ostensible withdrawal of all combat brigades now in Iraq.

Although the ostensible purpose of the combat brigades remaining in Iraq would be to protect other U.S. troops in the country, they would also provide the kind of combat capability that U.S. commanders have wanted to maintain to deal with a broad range of contingencies.

The fact that the commanders have the option to nullify Obama's pledge to removal all combat brigades raises serious questions about whether he has given up control over his Iraq policy.

Obama declared, in a speech at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina that by Aug. 31, 2010, "[O]ur combat mission in Iraq will end". But he confirmed earlier indications from administration officials that the residual force would be from 35,000 to 50,000 troops - far higher than Democratic congressional leaders had previously been led to expect by Obama.

Obama did not refer to the possibility that combat brigades would remain in the country after Aug. 31, 2010, but Defence Secretary Robert Gates admitted as much in a question and answer session with reporters after the speech.

Obama also stated, "I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011." But Gates, and the top commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, have both indicated on the record that they wanted to keep U.S. troops in Iraq even after that date, based on the assumption that the Iraqi government will renegotiate the Status of Forces agreement.

NBC News Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski reported just before Obama's speech that discussions had taken place in the Kirkuk area between some U.S. military commanders and Iraqis "to establish what could end up as a permanent air base, U.S. air base, in Kirkuk."

Obama's claim that the U.S. combat mission will end in August 2010 raises the question whether he will call a halt to combat patrols by U.S. personnel embedded with Iraqi units. The sweeping concession made to CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus and Iraq commander Gen. Odierno on the residual force suggests that he will not demand the end of such operations by U.S. troops.

The freedom granted to Odierno and Petraeus on the residual force overshadows his concession to the generals and Gates in accepting the recommendation for 19-month timetable for withdrawing combat brigades.

Obama had appeared to be leaning toward the 16-month withdrawal of combat brigades he had pledged during the campaign as recently as a Jan. 21 White House meeting with Gates and Petraeus.

Obama provided no further details on the residual force. According to the Washington Post report published Friday, two unnamed "senior officials" - one of whom was presumably Secretary Gates - told Congressional leaders Thursday that Obama would let commanders decide not only the exact schedule of withdrawal of combat brigades but the size of the residual force.

In a teleconference with reporters Friday afternoon, Gates appeared to confirm indirectly that he and field commanders have discussed either keeping combat brigades in Iraq but calling them "non-combat" forces or actually sending new combat brigades to Iraq from the United States during the drawdown of the brigades now in Iraq.

A reporter asked Gates, "You have said they're not going to be combat brigades, but are you going to take combat brigades that are in the United States and sort of rename them, redesignate them, or are you going to create new units for this specific mission?"

Gates first sidestepped the question entirely. "[W]ith respect to the 35,000 to 50,000," he said, "I think that that's a question probably better directed at General Odierno." But he then added, "[I]n terms of whether those are new units or whether they are re-missioned units that are already there, I think remains to be seen."

CBS News Pentagon correspondent David Martin, reflecting the leaks from Pentagon officials, reported Feb. 24 that the residual force would be organised in "training and assistance brigades" that would be capable of conducting combat operations and calling air strikes from carrier or land-based aircraft. In a comment to CBS News Political Hotsheet, Martin said the units would be "fully combat capable", suggesting that they would be drawn from combat brigades.

Some leading Senate and House Democrats were clearly taken by surprise by the size of the residual force to which Obama had agreed. On the Rachel Maddow Show Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "I don't know what the justification is for 50,000, a presence of 50,000 troops in Iraq."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Carl Levin, chair of the Armed Services Committee, both indicated that the figure was higher than they had expected. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, said, "I do think we have to look carefully at the numbers that are there and do it as quickly as we can."

Defeated Republican presidential candidate John McCain, on the other hand, sounded like a loyal supporter of Obama's decision, saying it is "reasonable" and that he is "cautiously optimistic that the plan that is laid out by the president can lead to success."

Obama even took a step toward committing himself to reversing the whole withdrawal policy if violence in Iraq resumes anytime before the end of 2011. Rep. John McHugh, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Obama had assured him that he would "revisit" the withdrawal plan "if the situation on the ground deteriorates and violence increases."

The decision on Iraq policy announced by Obama Friday ended a four-month period of maneuvering by Gates, Odierno and CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus aimed at getting Obama to change his Iraq policy.

Gates and the two generals had wanted to keep a large residual force, including combat brigades, in Iraq not only through 2011 but for at least another four years beyond that. They had presented a 23-month draw-down plan to Obama at the Jan. 21 White House meeting as an alternative to his 16-month drawdown plan.

Later, they settled on 19 months as an acceptable compromise. It is now clear, however, that the primary objective of the trio was to get Obama to approve complete control by the commanders over the residual force up to 50,000.

The Washington Post reported that the senior administration officials who briefed Congressional leaders Thursday said that Obama's "senior civilian and military advisers" - meaning Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen - had recommended both the 19-month drawdown plan and the size of the residual force.

The Post reported the "senior officials" as suggesting that the reason for both recommendations was to avoid "jeopardizing Iraq's still-fragile security". However, a source who was close to Obama during the campaign and maintains ties to his advisers said Obama's acceptance of the 19-month plan was to "defuse the conflict with the Pentagon".

Not mentioned in either Obama's speech or briefings by Gates is the question of whether U.S. pilots and planes will be part of the residual force after August 2010. The silence on that matter suggests that U.S. airpower will continue to participate in combat, despite the supposed end of the U.S. combat mission.



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