Democratic Illinois Sen. Barack Obama would begin to withdraw troops from Iraq immediately if he became president, says one of his senior foreign policy advisers, Denis McDonough.
"He believes that we can do it at a pace of one to two combat brigades per month. And at that pace, we can get the remaining troops out in 16 months," he says. "This is not an ironclad, absolute commitment that at the end of 16 months, all of our troops will be out. But he does believe that this is the kind of pace we can do responsibly and safely."
Unlike Sen. John McCain, McDonough says, Obama would not keep troops in Iraq in the same fashion as the United States has kept soldiers in South Korea or Germany for years. "Frankly, that is a principle difference between Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain," he adds.
Instead, Obama would keep troops in Iraq and the region for counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida. McDonough did not specify the numbers of troops those missions would require, saying, "We haven't gotten into dictating those numbers."
When it comes to Iran, Obama would not continue the policies begun under President George W. Bush, McDonough says, calling the current course of action "the wrong way to go."
Instead, he says Obama would rely on more diplomatic efforts. "Every one of our European allies maintains full diplomatic relations with Iran. They are engaged in a level of diplomacy that the U.S. is not," he says.