Obama: Tough choices await on two war fronts
January 30, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. — The United States faces some "difficult decisions" regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.
Obama met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Wednesday on his first visit to the Pentagon as commander in chief.
Afterward, he told reporters that they had talked about Iraq, Afghanistan and broader threats.
"We’re going to have some difficult decisions that we’re going to have to make, surrounding Iraq and Afghanistan most immediately," Obama said.
He did not elaborate on what these decisions might be, and he did not take questions.
Obama’s visit comes as military planners are looking to draw down the U.S. troop presence in Iraq while sending more troops to Afghanistan.
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division and a Marine Air Ground Task Force already have been diverted from Iraq to Afghanistan.
More troops are expected to be in place by summer, including an undetermined number of Marines.
Meanwhile, upcoming provincial elections in Iraq will be a key indicator on how quickly the U.S. can withdraw troops.
Army Col. Butch Kievenaar, head of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, recently told reporters that the transition after the elections will be a critical time, noting that Iraq has never undergone a "peaceful transition of power."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said Department of Defense officials are working to provide Obama with a number of options for withdrawing U.S. troops in Iraq, including withdrawing all combat troops in 16 months, as Obama has said he wants to do.
Before talking to reporters, Obama shook hands with servicemembers arranged in two receiving lines.
"It’s about time I found another Illinois guy," Obama said after talking to one servicemember.