For Obama, steady path to Iraq withdrawal

WASHINGTON Wed Dec 14, 2011 1:30pm EST

President Barack Obama waves to troops at Fort Bragg in North Carolina December 14, 2011.   REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Barack Obama waves to troops at Fort Bragg in North Carolina December 14, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama was an early opponent of the Iraq war, although he was a state senator when Congress authorized it and did not have to decide whether to vote for or against.

Since entering the White House in January 2009, Obama has steadily moved to fulfill his campaign promise to end the U.S. military mission in Iraq in what he and his aides insist is a "responsible" manner.

Here are some of Obama's key statements and actions on Iraq:

* October 2002 - Obama, then a state senator from Illinois, delivers a speech in Chicago against the Iraq war. "I don't oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war," he says.

* March 2003 - The U.S. invasion of Iraq begins with a cruise missile assault intended to kill leader Saddam Hussein.

* January 2006 - Obama, now a U.S. senator, makes his first visit to Iraq.

* July 2007 - In an essay published in Foreign Affairs magazine, Obama calls the Iraq invasion a war "that never should have been authorized and never should have been waged." He calls for a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces "with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008."

* 2008 - As a presidential candidate, Obama promises to have all U.S. troops out of Iraq within 16 months of taking office, which would be about May 2010.

* February 2008 - Democratic presidential candidate Obama and rival Senator Hillary Clinton face off over Iraq. In one debate, Obama charges that Clinton's Senate vote to go to war "facilitated and enabled" Republican President George W. Bush.

* November 2008 - The United States and Iraq complete a Status of Forces agreement that requires U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011.

* January 2009 - Obama takes the oath of office as the 44th U.S. president. In his inaugural address, he pledges: "We'll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people."

* February 2009 - Reports emerge that Obama is reconsidering his 16-month campaign promise and has asked advisers for options that would involve a lengthier withdrawal.

* February 27, 2009 - At Camp LeJuene, N.C., Obama says the U.S. combat mission in Iraq will end in August 2010 and he will withdraw all U.S. troops by December 2011.

* April 2009 - Obama makes his first and so far only trip to Iraq as president, meeting with U.S. troops and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad.

* October 21, 2011 - Obama announces plans to withdraw remaining troops from Iraq by year's end, after the failure of negotiations with Iraq to keep thousands of U.S. troops on as trainers.

* December 12, 2011 - Obama meets with Maliki at the White House to chart a post-war U.S.-Iraqi relationship.

* December 14, 2011 - Obama travels to Fort Bragg, N.C., to honor U.S. troops who have served in Iraq.

(Editing By Warren Strobel and John O'Callaghan)

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