Surge coauthor believes Clinton would wait on withdrawal

Retired Gen. Jack Keane, one of the architects of the latest strategy in Iraq, tells the New York Sun he believes Clinton would not order an immediate exit.

By Alex Koppelman
Published March 3, 2008 10:51PM (EST)

In an article in the conservative New York Sun Monday, Jack Keane, the retired general who coauthored the "surge" strategy for Iraq, said he believes that Hillary Clinton, if elected president, would not order an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, and praises her for it. "Senator Clinton is very knowledgeable about national security and is probably going to be strong on defense," Keane said. "I have no doubts whatsoever that if she were president in January '09 she would not act irresponsibly and issue orders to conduct an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, regardless of the consequences, and squander the gains that have been made."

And before you dismiss him offhand, Keane, it seems, may actually have some insight into Clinton's thinking. He briefed Clinton in late 2006 and early 2007 on the idea of the surge, and according to the Sun, early last year the Clinton campaign asked Keane to come on board as an advisor, a request he declined, as he has declined all such requests.

That said, though, the Clinton campaign vociferously denied Keane's contention; Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson told the Sun, "Senator Clinton speaks for herself on her plans to end the Iraq war. She has said she will end the war the right way, swiftly and responsibly, and beginning within 60 days of taking office." A position statement about Iraq along those lines appears on Clinton's Web site.

Nevertheless, Barack Obama's campaign has seized on Keane's comments, e-mailing around the article, with a statement from spokesman Bill Burton that reads: "It is astonishing that after a year of telling voters that she would end the disastrous war that she voted to authorize, one of Senator Clinton’s military advisors said he has 'no doubts whatsoever' that she would not begin a withdrawal from Iraq if elected President. Senator Clinton needs to explain to the American people what she said to the architect of George Bush's surge that made him think she wouldn’t end the war."

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Hillary Rodham Clinton Iraq Iraq War Middle East War Room