Combat troops could be out of Iraq within 19 months

U.S. soldiers stand guard outside a mosque during a prisoner release Sunday in Baghdad, Iraq.
President Obama is expected to approve a proposal to withdraw most combat troops from Iraq within 19 months, Pentagon officials told CNN Wednesday.

Although no decision has been announced by the White House, “That’s the way the wind is blowing,” a Pentagon official said. A White House spokesman said the president has made no final decisions about Iraq policy. Obama’s campaign pledge was to withdraw combat troops within 16 months. But shortly after taking office, he asked Pentagon and military commanders for an analysis of other time frames. The Pentagon sent Obama options for withdrawals at 16, 19, and 23 months. It is expected that the final plan will call for the majority of combat forces to be withdrawn, and keep as many as 50,000 in Iraq to serve mainly as military trainers or advisers.

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U.S. military officials said even those residual forces could find themselves in combat. For the last two months, the U.S. Central Command has been assessing how equipment and personnel will be withdrawn from Iraq, according to a U.S. military official. Watch what Obama said Tuesday night about Iraq ยป

The official did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of discussing withdrawal details before the president’s announcement. However, he said the U.S. military is looking at exit routes through Jordan and Kuwait. The military is trying to determine what equipment might be returned to the United States; transferred to the Iraqi or Jordanian government; sent to Afghanistan; or simply discarded.