Metro War Veteran Discusses Obama Combat Plan

Friday, February 27th 2009, 9:50 pm
By: News 9

By Charles Bassett, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- U.S. troops are one step closer to leaving Iraq. President Barack Obama announced his plan to end combat missions there and bring the war to an end.

NEWS 9 got some insights from the man who was there to see the capture of Saddam Hussein.

More on Oklahoma Senator Remembers Hussein's Capture

The president plans to withdraw about 100,000 troops from Iraq over the next 18 months. Retired Army Lt. Colonel and now State Senator Steve Russell was in Iraq in the early days of the war and helped capture Saddam Hussein.

He praised the president for consulting his military commanders on the withdrawal.

"The commanders are being listened to," Russell said. "They had a pullout plan. No one wants to come home more than the soldiers."

Russell is also pleased with the president's plan to leave a residual force of about 35,000 to 50,000 troops to help the Iraqis during the transition.

"Once we get them though these difficult elections, which are the summer and the fall, and they get to the national elections in December, that we're going to be in good shape," Russell said.

But Russell says setting timelines for the withdrawal can spell trouble.

"I think the president has to be careful about setting an exact date and declaring it the end of combat operations," Russell said. "Our previous commander in chief saw that that could be problematic."

Russell was in Iraq as late as last fall and says from what he has seen the Iraqis are ready to stand on their own.

"I have been very, very impressed with the security gains that have been made, and I am confident that the Iraqis will be able to defend their own areas," Russell said.

The president says all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.