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Obama Focuses on Iraq During First Full Day in Office

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2009 – President Barack Obama will spend part of his first full day in office today meeting with his National Security Council, including Pentagon and military leaders with direct responsibility for operations in Iraq.

Obama is slated to meet at the White House late this afternoon with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, also will participate via teleconference.

“The president running up to his inauguration yesterday … made it clear this was one of the important items on his agenda, and he would be meeting with the commanders soon,” Whitman said. “This is a logical first step, meeting with the secretary and the chairman and field commanders and the combatant commander.”

The meeting will give Obama the opportunity to speak with the people most directly involved in managing and executing operations in Iraq, he said.

The president is expected to meet in the near future with the Joint Chiefs, but no date has yet been set for that session, Whitman said. Whitman emphasized Gates’ longstanding policy of providing opportunities for his senior military staff and commanders to provide input to the president directly.

Obama, who campaigned on bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq, told servicemembers and their families during last night’s Commander in Chief’s Inaugural Ball that he’ll have no greater honor or responsibility than serving as their commander in chief.

About 300 troops wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan, as well as families of fallen servicemembers, attended the ball.

“Right now, as we gather here in Washington, we are sobered by the knowledge that we have troops in all corners of the world, many of them in harm’s way,” the president said. “We are fighting two wars. We face dangerous threats to our security. We depend on the men and women of our armed forces to keep us safe.”

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