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As events unfold in Iraq, the political campaigns react.
On Aug. 21, 2008, for example, news broke that the Bush administration and officials in Iraq were negotiating an agreement that envisioned U.S. troops leaving Iraq by 2011.
Barack Obama gave an interview to USA Today the same day in which he discussed his Iraq policy. He pointed to the 2011 date and said it matched his own policies.
"It's more or less the same time frame I announced two years ago," Obama said.
We looked back two years ago to find Obama's statements on Iraq. The most salient example from that time was a speech he gave on Iraq to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on Nov. 20, 2006.
Obama criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq and emphasized the need for a strategy that finds a political solution to the conflict.
"The first part of this strategy begins by exerting the greatest leverage we have on the Iraqi government — a phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq on a timetable that would begin in four to six months," Obama said. "When I first advocated steps along these lines over a year ago, I had hoped that this phased redeployment could begin by the end of 2006. Such a timetable may now need to begin in 2007, but begin it must."
A few months later, in January 2007, Obama proposed legislation that would have started pulling out troops in May 2007 with a goal of having all combat troops out by March 31, 2008. The legislation included provisions to halt the withdrawal in case of national interest or if the Iraqi government met certain targets.
The legislation didn't pass, and it probably never had much of a chance given President Bush's opposition to withdrawal. On the campaign trail in 2007, Obama began discussing timetables for withdrawal that would begin with a new administration taking office in 2009. At a debate on Sept. 26, 2007, Obama said, "I believe that we should have all our troops out by 2013, but I don't want to make promises not knowing what the situation's going to be three or four years out."
As the campaign proceeded, Obama discussed removing troops at a pace of about one brigade a month, noting that complete withdrawal would take "about 16 months," or around the middle of 2010. He included caveats to allow for changing circumstances on the ground and the advice of military advisers.
To sum up the timetables here:
• The Bush administration is negotiating a 2011 withdrawal date.
• Two years ago, Obama proposed a withdrawal date of 2008.
• When that proposal foundered, Obama moved to a withdrawal window based on a 16-month timeline, withdrawing all troops between 2010 and 2013.
Obama's statement to USA Today says the Bush administration's latest plans for troop withdrawal from Iraq are "more or less the same time frame I announced two years ago." We'll agree that the 2011 date could be "more or less" the timeframe that Obama has proposed.
But we don't see much similarity between the new 2011 withdrawal date and what Obama advocated two years ago. It's closer to what he began advocating a year ago. Obama stretches the timeline a little bit here in a way that's not supported by the facts, though we'll grant that Obama was calling for a general withdrawal two years ago and John McCain was not. So we rate Obama's statement Mostly True.
Washington Post, U.S., Iraqi Negotiators Agree on 2011 Withdrawal , Aug. 22, 2008
Barack Obama Senate Web site, Speech: A Way Forward in Iraq , Nov. 20, 2006
Barack Obama Senate Web site, Floor Statement on Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007 , Jan 30, 2007
New York Times, Obama Envisions New Relationship With Iran , Nov. 2, 2007
PolitiFact.com, Barack Obama on a timetable to withdraw from Iraq
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