Capping off a week of disappointments for his progressive supporters, Barack Obama backed away from the idea of a timely withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, a signature plank in his campaign. “And when I go to Iraq and have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground,” explained Obama, “I’m sure I’ll have more information and will continue to refine my policies.”
Update: In response to criticism from John McCain’s campaign, Barack Obama has clarified his earlier comments, saying he would not extend his timetable for withdrawal, but would consider leaving more troops behind, depending on the advice of military commanders.
New York Times:
Mr. Obama, whose popularity in the Democratic primary was built upon a sharp opposition to the war and an often-touted 16-month gradual timetable for removing combat troops, dismissed suggestions that he was changing positions in the wake of reductions in violence in Iraq and a general election fight with Senator John McCain.
“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,” he said. “And when I go to Iraq and have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I’m sure I’ll have more information and will continue to refine my policies.”
As he arrived for a campaign stop in North Dakota, Mr. Obama told reporters on Thursday that he intended to conduct “a thorough assessment” of his Iraq policy during a forthcoming trip to the country. He stressed that he has long called for a careful and responsible withdrawal of American forces, but he declined to offer a fresh endorsement of his plan to remove one to two combat brigades a month.