Obama advisor recommends troops in Iraq in 2010

In a paper, the advisor says he thinks 60,000 to 80,000 U.S. soldiers should remain.

By Vincent Rossmeier

Published April 4, 2008 8:56PM (EDT)

An article in Friday's New York Sun reports that the publication has obtained a confidential policy paper written by Colin Kahl, an advisor to Barack Obama's campaign, that recommends that the United States have between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as late as 2010. According to the Sun, in Kahl's proposal U.S. troops would serve in an "over-watch role" in Iraq, allowing Iraqi forces to take the lead on counterinsurgency operations.

The Sun article describes Kahl as "the day-to-day coordinator of the Obama campaign's working group on Iraq." However, both Kahl and the Obama campaign quickly distanced the candidate from Kahl's plan, which is not the official policy of the Obama campaign. Kahl said, "This has absolutely zero to do with the campaign." Susan Rice, a senior foreign affairs advisor to the Obama campaign, said of Kahl's assessment, "We have experts and scholars with a range of views and Barack appreciates this range of views. They are in think tanks and like me they write in their own voice, they are people who do their independent scholarship. Barack Obama cannot be held accountable for what we all write." Rice added that the number of U.S. troops Obama would keep in Iraq "depends on the circumstances on the ground." And the Sun did note that "Obama's policy to date also allows for a residual force for Iraq."

This isn't the first time that an advisor to one of the Democratic candidates has said something like this. Appearing on British television in March, former Obama advisor Samantha Power called Obama's plan for withdrawal "a best-case scenario." And previously the Sun reported on an interview with retired Gen. Jack Keane -- who is not an official Hillary Clinton campaign advisor but has advised her before -- in which 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."

Kahl wrote the paper, titled "Stay on Success: A Policy of Conditional Engagement," for the Center for a New American Security. A brief of the paper is available on the Center's Web site.

Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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2008 Elections Barack Obama Iraq Middle East War Room