United States Central Command chief General David Petraeus, supported by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, tried to convince President Barack Obama that he had to back down from his campaign pledge to withdraw all US combat troops from Iraq within 18 months. This was at an Oval Office meeting on January 21.
But Obama informed Gates, Petraeus and Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen that he wasn’t convinced and that he wanted Gates and the military leaders to come back quickly with a detailed 16-month plan, according to two sources who have talked with participants in the meeting.
Obama’s decision to override Petraeus’s recommendation has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that
Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including General Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun pressuring Obama to change his withdrawal policy.
A network of senior military officers is also reportedly preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilizing public opinion against Obama’s decision.
Petraeus was visibly unhappy when he left the Oval Office, according to one of the sources. A White House staffer present at the meeting was quoted by the source as saying, “Petraeus made the mistake of thinking he was still dealing with George Bush instead of with Barack Obama.”
Petraeus, Gates and Odierno hoped to sell …