Obama to Leave 50,000 Troops in Iraq Indefinitely

President Tells Lawmakers Troops Will Stay to "Protect US Interests"

Last Updated 2/27/09 4:35 PM EST

As we reported yesterday, President Obama’s Iraq “withdrawal” plan will leave up to 50,000 troops in a warzone engaging in combat missions. Today the president detailed the plans for members of Congress, and said the remnant forces, which would remain for an indefinite period of time, will be in Iraq to “advise Iraqi troops and protect US interests.”

The decision to keep such an enormous number of ground troops in the nation after the war is ostensibly over, engaging in combat no less, does not sit well with many in Congress. The White House briefings are meant to shore up support for Obama’s new position, a stark contrast from his campaign promises.

During the campaign the president spoke repeatedly of a 16 month timetable, but backed off of it almost immediately after taking office. The current plan would spell a significant cut in ground troops in 19 months, but leaves open the question of when (or even if) the Obama Administration ever intends to formally leave the nation.

In a speech at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, President Obama declared that “by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.” He added that he intends to remove the up to 50,000 others by the end of 2011. In between those two dates, however, the troops will continue to conduct “targeted counter-terrorism missions,” which seems to be combat in everything but name.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.