STATEMENT BY SENATOR JOHN McCAIN ON IRAQ TROOP WITHDRAWAL PLAN
February 27, 2009
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today made the following statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding the announcement of the Iraq troop withdrawal plan:
MR. McCAIN: Mr. President, I rise to address the President’s plan to withdraw American troops from Iraq, as he will announce today at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Yesterday afternoon, I participated in the White House briefing, during which the President and his national security team described the contours of a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq. As he described it, this plan would aim to remove the bulk of our combat troops by August of 2010, leaving up to 50,000 troops in place – a little over one third of the current American troop presence in Iraq. Most combat forces would remain in place for the duration of this year, ahead of the national elections likely to take place in December. The President noted that he reserves the right to revisit the timeline currently envisioned based on conditions on the ground in Iraq.
It is encouraging that the dramatic success of the “surge” strategy has enabled us to move from a discussion about whether the United States could bear the catastrophic consequences of failure in Iraq, to planning the way in which to consolidate success there. Thanks to the leadership of General David Petraeus, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and General Ray Odierno, and the many brave men and women who have served under them, the failing situation in Iraq has been arrested and reversed.
The President’s plan is not without risk. We have not yet completed the mission in Iraq, and the gains we have made there remain fragile. We will need to be cautious as we withdraw troops so as not to jeopardize these achievements, and listen closely to the commanders on the ground as the administration determines the pace of withdrawals. The greatest risk will be present ahead of the December elections, and conditions could worsen before or even after they take place
With these factors in mind, I believe the President’s withdrawal plan is a reasonable one. Given the gains in Iraq and the requirements to send additional troops to Afghanistan, together with the significant number of troops that will remain in Iraq and the President’s willingness to reassess based on conditions on the ground, I am cautiously optimistic that the plan as laid out by the President can lead to success.
The American people should be clear: the President’s plan, even after the end of its withdrawal timeline is reached, will leave in place up to 50,000 U.S. troops. All will be in harm’s way, and some will continue to conduct combat operations. They will play a vital role in consolidating and extending the remarkable progress our military has made since early 2007. That is why I believe that the administration should aim to keep the full complement – 50,000, as briefed by Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen – and not succumb to pressures, political or otherwise, to make deeper or faster cuts in our force levels.
The President’s plan, as it was briefed yesterday, is one that can keep us on the right path in Iraq. I worry, however, about statements made by a number of our colleagues indicating that, for reasons wholly apart from the requirement to secure our aims in Iraq, we should aim at a troop presence much lower than 50,000. We have spent enormous amounts of American blood in treasure in Iraq – we all know that. After all the tragic losses of life, after the hundreds of billions of dollars spent, after all the other costs our country has absorbed as a result of the conduct of this war, we are finally on a path to success. Let us have no crisis of confidence now. Instead, let us welcome home our fighting men and women – not just thanking them for serving in Iraq, but congratulating them on bringing us to victory there.