Diplomats, generals join Obama in war meeting - Yahoo! News
Diplomats, generals join Obama in war meeting
Print By ANNE GEARAN, AP Military Writer Anne Gearan, Ap Military Writer –
26 mins ago
AFP WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama invited the U.S. ambassador in Iraq to sit in on a war council session Wednesday that the Pentagon calls a first step toward ending the nearly six-year-old conflict.
"This is a logical first step from a president that wants to learn about or to speak to the people that are most directly involved," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
The White House said the strategy session would include Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, both critics of the management of the war. Obama campaigned on a promise to pull U.S. combat forces out of Iraq within 16 months.
The White House meeting was part of a symbolic framing of a new president's agenda on his first full day in office, but it does not completely fulfill Obama's oft-repeated promise to call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff and tell them to close down a war he opposed.
A senior military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the schedule is not confirmed, said that meeting with the Joint Chiefs — the president's senior uniformed military advisers — would come within a week.
Instead, the agenda as announced by the White House includes the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker; another State Department representative and the general responsible for both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The State Department was expected to send William Burns, its senior official until the expected confirmation of Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of State later Wednesday.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, was attending along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Both are holdovers from the Bush administration, now getting new instructions.
The top general in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, was participating by video hookup. He has already drawn up one set of withdrawal plans. Odierno's boss, Gen. David Petraeus, was to be there in person, along with Obama's new chief of staff and White House national security adviser.
The agenda for Obama's White House meeting changed several times. At one point it was to include a broader look at the war in Afghanistan, which Obama has said was hobbled by a misguided focus on Iraq.
The Pentagon first said that the top commander in Afghanistan would participate, and then said he would not.
Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister, told Associated Press Television News on Tuesday that Iraq is willing to have the U.S. withdraw its troops and assume security for the country "before the end of 2011," the departure date agreed to by former President George W. Bush in November.
Senior military leaders had been wary of any timeline, saying that withdrawal plans should be keyed to continued security improvements, but have said that they could meet either the deadline set with Iraq or the shorter one Obama wants.
Associated Press writers Pauline Jelinek and Matthew Lee contributed to this report.