By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 22, 2009 - Among the military options being considered by President Barack Obama involves a plan to remove most U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months, the Defense Department's top civilian and military officials said here today. The 16-month timeframe was among some possible Iraq drawdown plans discussed at yesterday's White House meeting between Obama and members of his National Security Council staff, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told Pentagon reporters.
"I would say that yesterday's meeting was the beginning of a process of evaluating various options," Gates said.
Since Obama's election to the presidency last fall, Gates said, senior U.S. military planners have been "looking at several options" regarding planning for a drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq. About 140,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq today.
"And, obviously, 16 months is one of them," Gates told reporters. He emphasized that Obama "wants a responsible drawdown," regardless of the option chosen.
"We've certainly heard '16 months' for a long time; we've looked at that option and the risks that are associated with that," said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who attended the White House meeting with Gates and accompanied the secretary at today's Pentagon news conference.
Gates and Mullen said the Joint Chiefs would be consulted during the evaluation of options for U.S. troop drawdowns from Iraq.
"And, when the time comes to have that full engagement with the president with respect to that ... I will advise him accordingly, and he'll make a decision," Mullen said.