Hot off his historic inauguration, President Barack Obama quickly turned his focus to drawing down troops in Iraq.
Iraq is willing to have the U.S. withdraw its troops and assume security for the country before the end of 2011, the departure date agreed to by former President George W. Bush, the Iraqi prime minister's spokesman said.
The president met Wednesday afternoon with close advisers on his first day in office to consider complex questions surrounding the practical implications and accompanying challenges of withdrawing from Iraq. Obama aims for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq by the summer of 2010.
Commander of Forces Gen. Ray Odierno joined the meeting via video conference. He talked about the situation in Iraq and said he will be presenting a plan. The military has been working for months to come up with withdrawal plans that would meet Obama's 16-month goal.
Others who joined the discussion with Obama included Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus, who flew into D.C. especially for the meeting.
"The meeting was productive and I very much appreciated receiving assessments from these experienced and dedicated individuals," Obama said in a statement after the meeting. "During the discussion, I asked the military leadership to engage in additional planning necessary to execute a responsible military drawdown from Iraq."
There are a range of options for withdrawal -- all with risks.
The most conservative of those options would be a withdrawal of forces by December 2011, which is what the U.S. agreement with the Iraqis calls for. But the risk there would be that the slower the drawdown, the slower the buildup of badly needed forces in Afghanistan.
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