President Bush announced plans yesterday to bring home 8,000 combat and support troops from Iraq by February, and send a battalion of 4,500 Marines headed to Iraq in November to Afghanistan instead.
The announcement gives voters an insight into Barack Obama's and John McCain's stances regarding how and when to withdraw American forces from Iraq. The presidential candidates came out with two very different reactions.
Obama sharply criticized Bush and McCain as being in denial of the reality:
What President Bush and Senator McCain don't understand is that the central front in the war on terror is not in Iraq, and it never was — the central front is in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the terrorists who hit us on 9/11 are still plotting attacks seven years later. Now, the choice for the American people could not be clearer. John McCain has been talking a lot about change, but he's running for four more years of the same foreign policy that we've had under George Bush.
McCain on the other hand avoided timelines, instead talking about withdrawals based on success. To see his take on Bush's modest withdrawal plan, read more.
McCain addressed the decision and argued:
Today's announcement of additional withdrawals of American forces in Iraq demonstrates what success in our efforts there can look like. American troops are returning home in success and with honor because of the improvements in security that followed implementation of the surge strategy. Today's announcement makes clear that the planned withdrawal of up to 8,000 troops is based, as it should be, on conditions on the ground and the advice of our military commanders in the field. Senator Obama is utterly confused by the progress in the war in Iraq.
Obama's Iraq plan states that troop removal would be directed by military commanders, in consultation with the Iraqi government. But Obama would set a pace that would remove one to two brigades a month, so they would all be gone in 16 months. McCain's Iraq plan holds that only when Iraqi forces can safeguard their own country, American troops can return home. He notes the progress made by the surge, but maintains that these advancements will be lost if the US withdraws most troops.
Based on how the candidates responded to Bush's announcement, whose approach sounds the best to you?