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Obama Adviser Calls for Troops To Stay in Iraq Through 2010

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.nysun.com/politics/obama-adviser-calls-troops-stay-iraq-through-2010 Obama Adviser Calls for Troops To Stay in Iraq Through 2010 By ELI LAKE, STAFF
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5, 2008
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      http://www.nysun.com/politics/obama-adviser-calls-troops-stay-iraq-through-2010

      Obama Adviser Calls for Troops To Stay in Iraq Through
      2010
      By ELI LAKE, STAFF REPORTER OF THE SUN | April 4, 2008

      WASHINGTON — A key adviser to Senator Obama’s campaign
      is recommending in a confidential paper that America
      keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as of
      late 2010, a plan at odds with the public pledge of
      the Illinois senator to withdraw combat forces from
      Iraq within 16 months of taking office.

      The paper, obtained by The New York Sun, was written
      by Colin Kahl for the center-left Center for a New
      American Security. In “Stay on Success: A Policy of
      Conditional Engagement,” Mr. Kahl writes that through
      negotiations with the Iraqi government “the U.S.
      should aim to transition to a sustainable over-watch
      posture (of perhaps 60,000–80,000 forces) by the end
      of 2010 (although the specific timelines should be the
      byproduct of negotiations and conditions on the
      ground).”

      Mr. Kahl is the day-to-day coordinator of the Obama
      campaign’s working group on Iraq. A shorter and less
      detailed version of this paper appeared on the
      center’s Web site as a policy brief.

      Both Mr. Kahl and a senior Obama campaign adviser
      reached yesterday said the paper does not represent
      the campaign’s Iraq position. Nonetheless, the paper
      could provide clues as to the ultimate size of the
      residual American force the candidate has said would
      remain in Iraq after the withdrawal of combat
      brigades. The campaign has not publicly discussed the
      size of such a force in the past.

      This is not the first time the opinion of an adviser
      to the Obama campaign has differed with the
      candidate’s stated Iraq policy. In February, Mr.
      Obama’s first foreign policy tutor, Samantha Power,
      told BBC that the senator’s current Iraq plan would
      likely change based on the advice of military
      commanders in 2009. She has since resigned her
      position as a formal adviser.

      The political ramifications of the disclosure are yet
      to be seen. The perception of a harder line in Iraq
      could help Mr. Obama combat charges by Senator McCain
      in a general election that Mr. Obama favors a hasty
      surrender and retreat in Iraq. But it could hurt the
      Obama campaign with anti-war voters in the Democratic
      primaries. Mr. Obama’s rival for the Democratic
      nomination, Senator Clinton, has called for
      withdrawing troops from Iraq, but an architect of the
      surge has told the Sun that she has been wary of a
      precipitous withdrawal. In a situation with some
      parallels to this one, Mr. Obama suffered some
      political damage on the trade issue when he called
      publicly for a renegotiation of NAFTA while a policy
      adviser reportedly met with Canadian officials and
      downplayed the chances of a NAFTA retreat.

      In an interview yesterday, a senior Obama foreign
      affairs adviser, Susan Rice, said the Iraq working
      group is not the last word on the campaign’s Iraq
      policy.

      “We have experts and scholars with a range of views
      and Barack appreciates this range of views. They are
      in think tanks and like me they write in their own
      voice, they are people who do their independent
      scholarship. Barack Obama cannot be held accountable
      for what we all write,” she said. Ms. Rice said she
      had not seen the paper, which is marked as a draft and
      “not for attribution without author’s permission.”

      Mr. Kahl yesterday said, “This has absolutely zero to
      do with the campaign.” He added, “There are elements
      that are consistent with the Democratic Party’s
      approach, and I will leave it to others to find out if
      there are elements that are not.”

      Mr. Kahl’s approach would call on the remaining troops
      in Iraq to play an “over-watch role.” The term is used
      by Multinational Forces Iraq to describe the long term
      goal of the coalition force presence in the country,
      Mr. Kahl said in an interview.

      “It refers to the U.S. being out of the lead, largely
      in a support role. It doesn’t mean the U.S. does not
      do things like targeted counter-terrorism missions or
      continue to train and advise the Iraqis,” he said. “It
      would not be 150,000 Americans taking the lead in
      counterinsurgency.”

      Mr. Obama’s policy to date also allows for a residual
      force for Iraq. In early Iowa debates, the senator
      would not pledge to remove all soldiers from Iraq, a
      distinction from his promise to withdraw all combat
      brigades. Also, Mr. Obama has stipulated that he would
      be open to having the military train the Iraqi
      Security Forces if he received guarantees that those
      forces would not be the shock troops of one side of an
      Iraqi civil war.

      But the Obama campaign has also not said how many
      troops would make up this residual force. “We have not
      put a number on that. It depends on the circumstances
      on the ground,” Ms. Rice said. She added, “It would be
      worse than folly, it would be dangerous, to put a hard
      number on the residual forces.”

      Mr. Kahl’s paper laid out what he called a “middle
      way” between unlimited engagement in Iraq and complete
      and rapid disengagement. The approach is contingent,
      he said, on the progress and willingness of Iraq’s
      major confessional parties in reaching political
      accommodation.

      “There is a fundamental difference in the assumption
      between the Democratic approach and the Bush-McCain
      approach. That approach is premised on the assumption
      the Iraqi government wants to reach accommodation and
      what they need is time. The surge is premised on the
      notion of creating breathing space,” Mr. Kahl said. He
      added that his strategy would pressure and entice the
      Iraqi government to begin political accommodation by
      not only starting the withdrawal, but also by stating
      that America had no intention to hold permanent bases
      in the country.
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