Obama wants troops out next year

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The Independent US

Senator Barack Obama has called for US combat troops to immediately be pulled out of Iraq one or two brigades at a time, leading to a complete withdrawal of US fighting forces by the end of next year.

His timetable, announced in a speech in Iowa yesterday, came as a direct challenge to the White House and his main Democratic rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton. "Let me be clear: There is no military solution in Iraq and there never was," said Mr Obama. "The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq's leaders to resolve their civil war is to immediately begin to remove our combat troops. Not in six months or one year – now."

Mr Obama was speaking a day after General David Petraeus, America's commander in Iraq, said it would be a disaster for the US to withdraw more fighting troops than the 30,000 he has recommended.

Mr Obama stopped short of calling for an immediate pull-out of all troops and focused on combat brigades tackling insurgents. There should be a clear timetable to withdraw one or two brigades each month, he said. "If we start now, all of our combat brigades should be out of Iraq by the end of next year," he said.

The Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on NBC's Today show yesterday that stabilising Iraq would be a lengthy process that would not end by reducing troops.