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Military leaders get early audience

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, in a meeting with his top national security advisers Wednesday, asked the Pentagon to do whatever additional planning is necessary to "execute a responsible military drawdown from Iraq."

Obama's statement, issued by the White House after the gathering, marked the opening salvo of his much-anticipated effort to pull troops more quickly out of Iraq, but it made no reference to any timeline or his campaign vow to get combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months.

"During the discussion, I asked the military leadership to engage in additional planning necessary to execute a responsible military drawdown from Iraq," Obama said.

He added that in the coming days he also plans to travel to the Pentagon and meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"We will undertake a full review of the situation in Afghanistan in order to develop a comprehensive policy for the entire region," Obama said. Wednesday's strategy session included Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, both critics of the management of the war.

The White House meeting was part of a symbolic framing of a new president's agenda on his first full day in office.

A senior military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the schedule is not confirmed, said that a meeting with the Joint Chiefs — the president's senior uniformed military advisers — would come within a week.

The agenda as announced by the White House included the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker; another State Department representative; and Gen. David Petraeus, who is responsible for managing both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, attended along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Both are holdovers from the Bush administration.

There are currently about 143,000 U.S. forces in Iraq. There are about 34,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including 17,000 in the NATO-led coalition and another 17,000 fighting insurgents and training Afghan forces.

Military leaders get early audience 01/21/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 11:02pm]

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