Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama insisted on Thursday he had not changed his plan to order immediate troop withdrawals from Iraq, despite earlier saying he might refine his policies.
Obama's attempts to clarify his Iraq policy, before a looming visit to the war zone, drew a triumphant response from the campaign of Republican presumptive nominee John McCain, a staunch supporter of the current war effort.
Obama held two press conferences within hours in North Dakota, in an attempt to dispel reports that he was softening his proposal to get all combat troops home within 16 months, in the light of recent security gains.
“I have seen no information that contradicts the notion that we can bring our troops out safely at a pace of one to two brigades per month,” Obama said.
“This is the same position that I had four months ago, it's the same position that I had eight months ago. It's the same position that I had 12 months ago.”
“My first day in office, I will bring the Joint Chiefs of Staff in, and I will give them a new mission, and that is to end this war.
“Responsibly, deliberately, but decisively.”
Obama also accused reporters of buying spin from McCain.
“I think what's happened is that the McCain campaign primed the pump with the press to suggest that somehow we were changing our policy, when we hadn't.”
But, in an earlier meeting with reporters, Obama said he may “refine” his policies after consultations with generals on a planned trip to Iraq this month, details of which have not been announced for security reasons.
Obama, who based his primary campaign on vehement opposition to the Iraq war, said he would conduct a "thorough assessment" of his policies after the trip, his first to Iraq for two years.
The McCain camp, in a statement from spokesman Brian Rogers, crowed that Obama had, in fact changed his position, and accepted that the current troop surge effort was a success.
“We would like to congratulate him for accepting John McCain's principled stand on this critical national security issue,” Rogers said.