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Obama says most U.S. troops to leave Iraq by August 2010

In a closed-door meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders, Obama and his advisors estimate that 35,000 to 50,000 troops will remain.

February 27, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Obama told lawmakers Thursday that he plans to withdraw most American troops from Iraq by August 2010 but leave tens of thousands behind to advise Iraqi forces and protect U.S. interests, congressional officials said.

Obama is expected to announce the new strategy today during a trip to the Marine base at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

In a closed-door meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders, Obama and his top advisors estimated that 35,000 to 50,000 troops would remain in Iraq after the bulk of troops are withdrawn.

Obama campaigned on ending the Iraq war and pledged to do so in 16 months. The withdrawal timetable he is expected to approve stretches over 19 months from his inauguration in January. That means some 100,000 troops would leave over the coming 18 months.

Rep. John McHugh of New York, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Obama promised him to reconsider the new strategy if violence rises. McHugh said he was worried the situation in Iraq remained fragile, especially as it approaches elections in December.

"Our commanders must have the flexibility they need in order to respond to these challenges, and President Obama assured me that there is a Plan B," McHugh said in a statement.

According to one congressional official, lawmakers were told that Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, and Gen. Ray Odierno, the top commander in Baghdad, believed the plan presented moderate risk but that the generals supported the 50,000 figure.

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