Washington (AFP) Feb 27, 2009
President Barack Obama heeded the US military's advice in deciding to postpone by three months the pullout of most US troops from Iraq beyond a promised 16-month deadline, his defense secretary said Friday.
Obama chose to slow the pace of withdrawal after hearing the views of the commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the Pentagon chief told reporters.
"Frankly, this is where both the chairman and I thought this should come out," Gates said in a telephone conference.
"And it was a very thorough, deliberative process where a lot of different options and a lot of different analysis were examined," he said.
Military commanders in Iraq, "particularly General Odierno," expressed concern that pulling out under the 16-month timeline by May 2010 could leave US forces short-handed at a sensitive time after crucial national elections in December, he said.
"The real concern has been, how do we get through this year and all of the elections that will take place, beginning with the district and sub-district elections early in the summer, the national elections at the end of the year, and have a period of adjustment after those national elections to make sure people are accepting the results," Gates said.
The 19-month plan "provides the maximum available force for General Odierno during that sensitive period," he said.
Pulling out combat troops by May "really would present some significant logistical and security issues."
"And so the extra two months or so was considered to be important."
Gates spoke from a US Marine Corps base in North Carolina where Obama earlier announced he will withdraw most US troops and end combat operations by the end of August 2010.
Obama said the remaining force of up to 50,000 would take on a new mission of training, equipping and advising Iraqi security forces, to protect US civilian personnel in Iraq, and to carry out counter-terrorism operations on its own and jointly with the Iraqi forces.
Gates said the United States should have plans in case Iraq chooses to amend an agreement that requires all US troops to leave by the end of 2011.
"My own view would be that we should be prepared to have some very modest-sized presence for training and helping them with their new equipment and providing, perhaps, intelligence support and so on," he said.
"The Iraqis have not said anything about that at this point, so it remains to be seen whether they will take an initiative."
Key dates in Iraq since US invasion
March 20: US-led forces bomb and then invade Iraq, where they allege that president Saddam Hussein is building weapons of mass destruction.
April 9: US forces move into the heart of Baghdad, where they topple a large statue of Saddam signalling the downfall of the regime.
May 1: US President George W. Bush announces the end of major combat operations using a "Mission Accomplished" banner, but the violence continues.
September 3: The first post-Saddam cabinet is sworn in.
October 2: US acknowledges that no weapons of mass destruction were found.
October 16: UN Resolution 1511 legitimises the US-led occupation.
December 13: Saddam captured.
April-August: Clashes between coalition forces and supporters of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
April 28: Publication of photographs of Iraqi prisoners being humiliated by American troops in Abu Ghraib prison.
June 28: The US-led administration says it has handed over power to Iraqis.
January 30: Iraqis go to the polls in the first multi-party vote in 50 years despite a spate of deadly attacks, but disenchanted Sunni Arabs largely boycott the vote.
April 6: Jalal Talabani chosen to be president, the first Kurd to hold the office in Iraq's modern history.
October 15: Iraqis vote in force on a draft constitution.
December 15: The conservative Shiite United Iraqi Alliance wins most seats in the parliamentary election for the first permanent post-Saddam government.
February 22: Shiite shrine at Samarra, north of Baghdad, blown up; 450 people die in following surge of intercommunity violence.
April 22: Talabani re-elected president. Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, forms a government in May.
June 7: Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, killed in a US air strike.
July: The United States hands over to Iraqi security control of the first of the country's 18 provinces.
October 11: A law establishing federal provinces is passed.
November 5: Saddam condemned to death for the execution of 148 Shiites in the 1980s.
December 30: Saddam hanged.
January 10: Bush announces the dispatch of 30,000 more American troops in a so-called "surge" strategy.
February 14: Start of security plan for Baghdad.
August 14: More than 400 people killed by suicide truck bombs targeting the ancient Yazidi religious sect in two Kurdish villages in northern Iraq.
September 3: British troops leave the southern port of Basra, moving to a base near its airport.
March 23: Death toll of US troops reaches 4,000 since May 2003.
September 1: The US military transfers control of western province of Anbar to Iraqi forces, the first Sunni-majority province to be handed over.
August 28: Sadr announces a halt to operations by the Mahdi Army.
November 27: Parliament ratifies an Iraq-US security agreement which gives American troops a legal basis to stay in Iraq and sets an end-2011 deadline for their departure.
January 1: The US formally transfers control of Baghdad's high-security Green Zone and other key installations to Iraqis.
January 20: Incoming President Barack Obama says the United States will "begin to responsibly leave Iraq."
February 27: Obama announces that all US combat operations in Iraq will end by August 31, 2010, and that he intends to fully withdraw all American troops by the end of 2011.
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Iraq not fazed by pending US pullout: Maliki
Baghdad (AFP) Feb 26, 2009
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki insisted on Thursday he was not fazed by a US withdrawal from the violence-scarred country as President Barack Obama prepared to announce a timeline for pulling out the troops.
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