Abercrombie critical of Obama's Iraq plan


POSTED: Monday, March 02, 2009

In his first salvo at President Barack Obama, a longtime friend, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie criticized yesterday Obama's plans for withdrawing troops from Iraq as too slow.

Appearing on “;State of the Union”; with CNN's John King, Abercrombie said he thinks Obama's plan to remove all but 50,000 troops from Iraq by August 2010 can be “;done faster”; and added that he is “;not comfortable”; with that number.

“;I think it can be done faster,”; Abercrombie said. “;If the idea is to continue to occupy Iraq in order to form some kind of stable democracy, a Muslim version of it or a Mesopotamian version of it, that's one thing. I don't think we can sustain that.”;

Abercrombie's remarks carry extra weight because of his chairmanship of the House armed services subcommittee on land and air forces.

Abercrombie, who was friends with Obama's parents at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, came out strongly as one of Obama's earliest supporters for his candidacy for president. But he joined several other prominent Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who have reacted cautiously to Obama's plan for Iraq, which calls for ending combat operations by Aug. 31, 2010.

Between 35,000 and 50,000 military personnel would remain in a transition period before all troops must leave by the end of 2011 under a joint pact.

In the six-minute CNN interview with Abercrombie, host King pointed out the difference between Obama's stances as a presidential candidate and as president.

In a 2007 interview, Obama sharply criticized the Iraq invasion as a “;strategic blunder.”; Last week, Obama took a “;different tone”; as King noted, praising the soldiers who ousted Saddam Hussein.

“;I think you have to concentrate on what he said, the 'strategic blunder' associated with Iraq,”; Abercrombie said.

Abercrombie suggested that Obama's decision to leave 50,000 troops in Iraq came at the behest of senior military officials who cannot acknowledge “;that there is no military solution or resolution in Iraq.”;

He also refuted the notion that the remaining soldiers would only provide security and help with training of the Iraqi military.

“;Any residual troops are by definition combat troops, because the combat isn't ending,”; the congressman said.

Abercrombie also denied that the surge of troops that former President George W. Bush championed in the last years of his administration was a success. Instead, he said the surge largely involved payoffs to former enemies.

“;What we did is we bribed people. We paid people not to kill us,”; the congressman said. “;That's all the surge is. It's a surge in money.”;

He also expressed concern about Obama's plan for adding as many as 17,000 troops in Afghanistan, saying that the president is trying to “;buy political time”; while a review of U.S. policy there continues.

“;We're trapped there and there is no strategy, and we're trying to figure out whether we should stay or go,”; Abercrombie said. “;I think we should go, and I think that's what the conclusion will be.”;


The Associated Press and Star-Bulletin reporter Laurie Au contributed to this report.