Pentagon Wary of Fast Iraq Withdrawal

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President-elect Barack Obama is facing an early confrontation with the Pentagon over the hot-button issue of how fast to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, with some senior officers arguing for a slower drawdown.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the withdrawal should be driven solely by conditions on the ground in Iraq. The statement ran counter to Mr. Obama’s frequent calls for a fixed timetable for a drawdown.

“I do think it’s important that it be conditions-based,” Adm. Mullen said. “I certainly understand there are other options, and it’s something that we look at all the time. But…from the military’s perspective, I think it’s best to be conditions-based.” Adm. Mullen, the nation’s top uniformed military officer, was quick to stress that he would carry out whatever orders he received from the new president next year. Still, the comments suggested that Mr. Obama may face a military establishment that deeply disagrees with one of his core policies.

Brooke Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Obama transition team, said the president-elect remains committed to withdrawing all U.S. combat forces within 16 months of taking office.

The comments from Adm. Mullen came a day after the Iraqi cabinet approved a long-debated security pact that would require U.S. forces to leave all of Iraq’s cities by next summer in preparation for a full military withdrawal by the end of 2011. Read the complete WSJ article

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