Watch CBSN Live

Obama Running Up Against Iraq Pullout Deadline

Last February, President Obama told troops at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that he planned to remove combat brigades from Iraq by the end of this summer.

"Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," he said.

The president said up to 50,000 troops would remain in a non-combat capacity after the deadline. All troops, he added, would be out of the country by the end of 2011.

The U.S. military has roughly 94,000 in Iraq now; to meet the president's deadline, it must thus cut that number nearly in half by the end of August.

It won't be easy.

As CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reported Thursday, "first the delay in the Iraqi elections and then the dispute over the results has forced Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander in Iraq, to slow down his withdrawal plans."

"Right now, it is still possible to move that many troops - but just barely," wrote Martin. "Any further delay in the drawdown will cause him to miss the deadline."

That contention is backed up by TPMmuckraker, which crunched the numbers on meeting the president's deadline. The military would have to pull out 14,000 troops each month through August to get down to the level promised by the president (factoring in current plans to get troop levels to 91,000 by the end of May).

Military observers told TPM that doing so would take a serious logistical push.

"We do want to pull all their unit equipment out with them," said Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton (Ret.). "That's not trivial. But major stuff like vehicles that are a bit of a challenge -- it wouldn't surprise me if we would keep some or move those out a little more slowly."

Another observer sounded a note of cautious optimism.

"They may be cutting it close in terms of a cut-off point where meeting the deadline becomes unfeasible from a technical perspective, but I haven't seen anything to make me think that they would be missing the deadline," military affairs researcher Peter Juul said.