Pentagon Iraq withdrawal has 16-month time frame

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Pentagon officials said Thursday they are readying a range of plans for a pullout of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, including a possible drawdown within the 16-month time frame promised by President-elect Obama.

The 16-month option, which would represent a speedier withdrawal of battle troops from Iraq than Defense officials preferred, would be among a range of plans presented to the incoming president, Department of Defense spokesman Geoff Morrell said during a morning briefing.

"They will not begin to present him with options for the way forward in Iraq or Afghanistan until he is commander in chief," Morrell said, "but they are prepared to give him a range of options as soon as he is ready."

Obama committed to the 16-month timeline for combat troops during the 2008 presidential campaign and stuck to that pledge despite criticism from campaign rivals and concerns raised by military commanders and defense officials. Under the timeline he pledged, combat troops would be completely withdrawn by the May 2010. There are 142,000 troops currently in Iraq.

Pentagon planners included the accelerated withdrawal option as a recognition of Obama's insistence in sticking to his Iraq pullout timeline. "Our military planners do not live in a vacuum," Morrell said, emphasizing that it remained one among several options.

During the campaign, Obama also said that he would call the Joint Chiefs of Staff together during his first day of office to set in motion plans to end the Iraq war.

Morrell said that no immediate post-inauguration meeting with top military commanders has been scheduled.

(This version CORRECTS timeline target to May 2010.)

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