Critics contend Obama is flop-flipping on key issue for his antiwar supporters
Today, presidential candidate Barack Obama clarified to reporters his recent comments that he is becoming more “flexible” toward setting withdrawal time-tables of US troops from Iraq. In Fargo, North Dakota, Obama made the following comments:
“You know these critics haven’t based their comments on anything that Ive said or anything that my campaign has said. Its pure speculation. Were planning to visit Iraq. I’m gonna do a thorough assessment when I’m there. I have been consistent through out this process that I believe the war in Iraq was a mistake.
That we need to bring this war to a responsible end. I have said repeatedly, although it was recently quoted as something new, that we need to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in and that view has not changed.
I continue to believe that it is a strategic error for us to maintain a long term occupation in Iraq at a time when conditions in Afghanistan are worsening, Al Qaeda has been able to establish bases in the areas of north west Pakistan,
Resources there are severely strained and were spending 10 to 12 billion dollars in Iraq that we desperately need here at home not to mention the strains on our military. So my position has not changed but keep in mind what that original position was. I have always said that I will listen to commanders on the ground;
I’ve always said that the pace of withdrawal would be dictated by the safety and security of our troops and the need to maintain stability.
That assessment has not changed and when I go to Iraq and I have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I’m sure Ill have more information and will continue to refine my policies.”
He was then asked if this meant he was open to a timeline for troop withdrawals that might take longer than 16 months. Obama responded:
“I mean we can chase this around you know for a long time.
What I’ve said repeatedly is that my goal is to end this conflict in a responsible way as quickly as possible. My 16-month timeline, if you examine everything I’ve said, was always premised on making sure that our troops were safe. I said based on what the information we had received from our commanders that 1-2 brigades per month could be pulled out safely from a logistical perspective. And my guiding approach continues to be that we’ve got to make sure that our troops are safe, and that Iraq is stable. And I’m going to continue to gather information to find out whether those conditions still hold and you know my job is to make sure that the strategic issues that we face, not just in Iraq but in Afghanistan in Iraq, and Pakistan that those are all taken into account and dealt with in a way that enhances Americas national security interest over the long term.”
Now, compare this statement from today, with a statement Obama made in a speech in November 2006, before he was a presidential candidate:
“The President should announce to the Iraqi people that our policy will include a gradual and substantial reduction in U.S. forces. He should then work with our military commanders to map out the best plan for such a redeployment and determine precise levels and dates. When possible, this should be done in consultation with the Iraqi government – but it should not depend on Iraqi approval. I am not suggesting that this timetable be overly-rigid. We cannot compromise the safety of our troops, and we should be willing to adjust to realities on the ground. The redeployment could be temporarily suspended if the parties in Iraq reach an effective political arrangement that stabilizes the situation and they offer us a clear and compelling rationale for maintaining certain troop levels. Moreover, it could be suspended if at any point U.S. commanders believe that a further reduction would put American troops in danger.”
Has Obama flipped here? You be the judge.