Presidential contender Barack Obama has gotten serious about Iraq after months of public speculation on where he stands. The senator offered legislation Tuesday night that would set a deadline of March 31, 2008, for the withdrawal of all combat brigades from Iraq.
Obama’s legislation, offered on the Senate floor last night, would remove all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008. The date falls within the parameters offered by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which recommended the removal of combat troops by the first quarter of next year.
“The days of our open-ended commitment must come to a close,” Obama said in his speech. “It is time for us to fundamentally change our policy. It is time to give Iraqis their country back.”
The senator offered his ideas in the midst of an intense congressional debate over President Bush’s latest Iraq proposal, to deploy an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to curtail an increasingly virulent insurgency. It also coincides with the launch of the 2008 campaign, with Obama, as well as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), former senator John Edwards (N.C.) and other Democrats forming exploratory committees.
Obama’s timetable for completing a withdrawal puts him at odds with other leading rivals for the Democratic nomination. Clinton supports capping the number of troops at their levels of Jan. 1. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) has proposed a similar troop cap. But neither has embraced a timetable for a troop removal. Edwards has been outspoken in his opposition to Bush’s new plan and has called for the immediate withdrawal of 40,000 to 50,000 troops. But he, too, has stopped short of setting firm date by which all would be removed.