Obama revises Iraq withdrawal timetable

President Barack Obama is close to issuing an order to withdraw the bulk of US military forces from Iraq by August 2010, the New York Times reported Wednesday, citing senior administration officials.

The order would give the US military 19 months to pull out, three months more than the promise Obama made while campaigning for president in 2008.

However tens of thousands of US troops — it is unclear exactly how many — would remain "to continue training Iraqi security forces, hunt down foreign terrorist cells and guard American institutions," the Times reported.

There are currently 142,000 US troops in Iraq, and a similar number of civilian contractors.

Obama earlier asked the Pentagon to considers the pros and cons of withdrawing US combat troops from Iraq in 16, 19 or 23 months.

US military commanders had reportedly been split on the speed of withdrawal, with General Raymond Odierno, the top US military commander in Iraq, pushing for the longer option.

The timetable comes as General David McKiernan the top US military commander in Afghanistan, seeks more forces to fight a resurgent Taliban movement.

Obama plans to deploy some 17,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, where there are currently about 70,000 foreign troops, including 38,000 from the United States.

The president has not made a final decision, administration officials told the Times, but could complete the review and announce the plan later this week.

Obama "has been struck by the fact that there has been a meeting of the minds in a lot of ways among his military advisers about what would be a safe and responsible way to redeploy our troops while protecting our interests in Iraq," an unnamed US senior administration official told the Times.