Obama Sets 2010 Date for Ending Iraq War
President Obama told top leaders in Congress on Thursday that he will end combat operations in Iraq on Aug. 31, 2010, putting a halt to all U.S.-led counterinsurgency efforts and transitioning the mission in Iraq to training, advising and engaging in limited counter-terrorist operations, congressional sources tell FOX News.
The president is expected to deliver a speech Friday at the Marine base in Camp Lejeune, N.C, in which he will order an immediate drawdown of the 142,000 Marines and Army personnel in Iraq. He has set a goal of reducing the U.S. military footprint in Iraq to no fewer than 35,000 and no more than 50,000 personnel after that date, congressional leaders were told.
The president met at the White House with top Democratic and Republican congressional leaders, as well as the leaders of the National Security and Foreign Policy committees to explain his decision.
The president told lawmakers troops that remain in Iraq after Aug. 31, 2010, will carry out new missions and will be trained and organized in a way that de-emphasizes combat-readiness and intensifies the focus on these three missions:
Train, equip and advise Iraqi security forces
Support civilian operations in Iraq aimed at reconstruction, redevelopment and political reconciliation
Conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions.
The president told lawmakers the plan, which ends combat operations 19 months after he was sworn in as president, represented the consensus advice he received from Defense Secretary Robert Gates; the Joints Chiefs of Staff; Army Gen. Ray Ordierno, the top military commander in Iraq, and Gen. David Petaeus, head of U.S. Central Command.
The meeting comes after leaders of both parties raised concerns about Obama's intention to leave up to 50,000 troops in Iraq after combat operations cease.
"I have been one who has called for significant cutbacks in Iraq for some time. And I am happy to listen to the secretary of defense, the president, but when they talk about 50,000, that's a little higher number than I had anticipated," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters before heading into the meeting with the president.
It wasn't immediately clear if the meeting reassured Reid and other Democratic leaders who were surprised that the number was so high.