WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will meet top military brass on Wednesday in a bid to follow through on his key campaign pledge to order US troops home from Iraq within 16 months, aides said.
In his first full day in office, Obama will meet Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and the top US commander in southwest Asia, General David Petraeus.
"The President is going to get an update about what is going on in Iraq," said his spokesman Robert Gibbs. "He will ask for planning to redeploy combat troops within 16 months."
Obama, who opposed the Iraq war, says he wants to redeploy thousands of combat troops from the country to Afghanistan, where conditions have deteriorated and which he says is the prime front against Al-Qaeda.
While pushing his plan for a withdrawal within 16 months, Obama has said he will listen to his generals to get up-to-date information on conditions on the ground before making final orders.
Last week, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said the US military nevertheless would be ready to present the new president with a full range of options, and the risks associated with each.
"We want to be prepared to show the incoming president a variety of options, 16-month drawdown being one of those options," he said.
"Of course, no option will be presented without relaying the risk that is taken on in conjunction with that option," he said.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman confirmed the lineup of top military chiefs for Wednesday's meeting, and said that General Raymond Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq would join the meeting by video conference.
"This is a logical first step, meeting with the secretary, the chairman, the field commanders and the combatant commander for Central Command," he said.
"The major portion of the topic is going to be Iraq. When you're talking about Iraq, the key players are the secretary and the chairman, the commander and the field commanders."
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