Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hillary Clinton Vows Regular Pullout of Brigades

The New York Times blog reports:

Iraq doesn’t come up on the presidential campaign trail as much as it once did, but Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was asked here Wednesday afternoon when she would “bring the boys home” – and gave a blunter and less conditional answer than usual.

“I think we can bring home one to two combat brigades a month,” she told an audience member who posed the question. “I think we can bring nearly everybody home, you know, certainly within a year if we keep at it and do it very steadily.”

One of Mrs. Clinton’s main competitors in Iowa, Senator Barack Obama, has been proposing the one-to-two-brigade pace for many months now; her other chief rival, former Senator John Edwards, as well as Governor Bill Richardson, have argued that they would remove all combat troops more quickly than that.

Mrs. Clinton has said for months that, as president, she would begin removing troops as quickly as her team could put plans in place, and that she would move at an orderly and safety-conscious pace. But she has also said that she would leave a number of forces in the country for specific missions, such as fighting al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, protecting the Kurds, and acting as a bulwark against Iranian forces.

Asked in August if troops could be out in 2007, Mrs. Clinton pointed to experts’ estimates that only one to two brigades could be evacuated each month. There are now 20 combat brigades in Iraq.

She also said this year, “The best estimate is that we can probably move a brigade a month, if we really accelerate it, maybe a brigade and a half or two a month. That is a lot of months. My point is: They’re not even planning for that in the Pentagon.”