Campaign Promises

Departments -> Defense -> Iraq

DE-29 The Promise: "redeploy combat brigades from Iraq at a pace of 1 to 2 brigades a month that would remove them in 16 months."
When/Where: Plan for America: "Blueprint for Change," dated 10/09/08
Source: Obama and Biden's documents/550007-barack-obama-2008-blueprint-for-change.html
Status:The oft-repeated campaign, vote-getting promise to "end the war" and pull all combat troops out of Iraq "within 16 months" of his inauguration sounded good at the time. However, reality set in and President Obama essentially kept the same timeline established by President Bush for withdrawal from Iraq. He formally ended U.S. military combat involvement in Iraq on 12/15/11, 35 months after his inauguration.

Meanwhile, more U.S. servicemen and women lost their lives or were wounded since "Operation New Dawn" started on 09/01/10. Since that date, 38 U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq as a result of hostile actions, 35 died as a result of non-hostile actions, and 295 were wounded in action as of 12/31/16.

The above are the official numbers. We do know, for example, that there were more U.S. troops (specifically, members of a 200-strong Marine Expeditionary Unit) killed or wounded in early CY2016 near Makmour, Iraq. These losses were 'off the books' because those Marines were on a so-called "temporary" assignment to Iraq.

This promise was not fulfilled.
DE-30 The Promise: "...on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war."
When/Where: Obama campaign article printed in The New York Times entitled "My Plan for Iraq" dated 07/14/08.
Status:Immediately after his inauguration on 01/21/09, President Obama met with diplomatic and military leaders responsible for the U.S. presence in Iraq. During that meeting, Obama directed immediate planning for a "responsible military drawdown" from Iraq.

On 10/21/11, President Obama announced that he and Prime Minister Al-Maliki agreed that all U.S. Forces in Iraq would be pulled out before the end of CY2011.

However, promise fulfillment was short-lived with the advent of successful Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) incursions into Iraq resulting in the takeover of population centers such as Mosul and Ramadi.

In early CY2016, for example, the Administration sent 200 Marines from the Marine Expeditionary Unit with four artillery units to prop up the Iraqi 15th Division near Makmour. The Marines were attacked by ISIS elements occupying Mosul and at least one Marine death and several wounded resulted. This was not publicly reported at the time by the Administration.

By 09/28/16, U.S. troop strength in Iraq had crept up to about 4,565 from a low of 170 security personnel in 06/14. On that date, the Administration announced that an additional 615 soldiers would be sent to Iraq, bringing the total of combat-ready troops to 5,180. Uncounted were approximately 1,500 troops in Iraq for purely security reasons, bringing the in-country presence to 6,680 before end-CY2016. According to media reports, nobody believed that the 5,180 combat troops were in Iraq purely in an "advisory and training" capacity. Combat was believed to be inevitable as Iraqi forces tried to liberate Mosul from ISIS occupation -- with U.S. military assistance.

This promise was not fulfilled.
DE-31 The Promise: "I would not hold our military, our resources and our foreign policy hostage to a misguided desire to maintain permanent bases in Iraq."
When/Where: Obama Op-Ed Contribution to The New York Times, dated 07/14/08.
Status:The National Defense Authorization Act for 2010 signed into law by President Obama on 10/28/09 specifies that "No funds ... may be obligated or expended ... for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq." Under the terms of a 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), all U.S. troops had to be out of Iraq by the end of CY2011.

On 10/21/11, President Obama announced that he and Prime Minister Al-Maliki agreed that all U.S. Forces in Iraq would be pulled out before the end of CY2011. This announcement was validated during Prime Minister Al-Maliki's visit to Washington on 12/12/11 and the last U.S. combat troops formally departed Iraq on 12/18/11.

In the face of the takeover by ISIS of key cities such as Mosul and Ramadi, President Obama announced in 06/15 that the Pentagon was sending an additional 450 "advisors/trainers." By 08/16, U.S. troop strength in Iraq had crept up to about 4,650. Yet no "permanent" U.S. bases were re-opened. Instead, U.S. troops operated out of a few temporary "fire bases."

To maintain a rapid reaction force in case conditions in Iraq deteriorated, President Obama kept several brigades in neighboring Kuwait (i.e. 3rd Armored Brigade, 1st Armored Division; 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division; 17th Sustainment Brigade, 1st Sustainment Command) as well as some 10,000 troops in Qatar.

This promise was fulfilled.