October 22nd, 2011 at 08:19am
Overnight, US President Barack Obama announced that US troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of the year.
The announcement, in the White House briefing room, came after the president completed a secure video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Officials had been discussing with Iraqi leaders the possibility of several thousand U.S. troops staying beyond 2011 to train Iraqi security forces. However, Iraqi leaders had refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution, something that was seen as a deal-breaker.
Talks with the Maliki government did not begin in earnest until August of this year. The White House had authorized the ambassador there to negotiate the possibility of up to 5,000 trainers remaining — though Gen. Lloyd Austin, the commanding general, had requested upwards of 15,000.
Capitol Hill sources indicated Friday that, while the troops will come home, the standard presence of Marines will be kept to guard the U.S. Embassy there.
Given that Iraq won’t permit US troops to stay and won’t give them immunity from prosecution, I understand why they’re being pulled out…but I don’t think Iraq is either safe enough or stable enough on their own just yet. That said, Obama should have disagreed with Al-Malaki and either continued negotiations now or later, based on the advice he has received over and over again from military and intelligence leaders.
Iraq is not a safe place just yet. It is getting there and we are making wonderful progress, but there are still some very unsettling influences over there which have enough power to wreak havoc without the presence of US and other international troops. Give it five or ten years and I expect that we’ll all be back there fixing a whole new mess as a result of this withdrawal.
I find myself with furious agreement with a couple prominent Republicans on this. First up, from the above article, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina:
“I respectfully disagree with President Obama. I feel all we have worked for, fought for, and sacrificed for is very much in jeopardy by today’s announcement. I hope I am wrong and the president is right, but I fear this decision has set in motion events that will come back to haunt our country,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement.
And secondly, Minnesota Congresswoman and Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann (currently my second pick behind Herman Cain):
“Today’s announcement that we will remove all of our forces from Iraq is a political decision and not a military one; it represents the complete failure of President Obama to secure an agreement with Iraq for our troops to remain there to preserve the peace and demonstrates how far our foreign policy leadership has fallen. In every case where the United States has liberated a people from dictatorial rule, we have kept troops in that country to ensure a peaceful transition and to protect fragile growing democracies. We will now have fewer troops in Iraq than we have in Honduras – despite a costly and protracted war.
“President Obama’s decision represents the end of the era of America’s influence in Iraq and the strengthening of Iran’s influence in Iraq with no plan to counter that influence. We have been ejected from a country by the people that we liberated and that the United States paid for with precious blood and treasure. The administration claims that we got exactly what we needed, but today’s announcement demonstrates otherwise. The United States needed a working democratic partnership in Iraq and we should have demanded that Iraq repay the full cost of liberating them given their rich oil revenues. I call on the president to return to the negotiating table with Iraq and lead from the front and not from weakness in Iraq and in the world.”
As I’ve said before, when you go in to a war, you have to be in it to win it. We are making great strides in Iraq, but the job is not done. We should not be leaving yet, and if this situation remains unchanged (I can’t see Obama changing his mind on this one…I think he is beyond caring how bad the polls are now and just wants to finish implementing his ideology before he gets booted out of office by either the 2012 election or a Democratic Party Primary challenge) then I fear that we will have to do all of this hard work all over again in a few years…and if that happens, then what do we say to the families who lost loved ones fighting for something that we are apparently not fighting for any more? And what about the poor people of Iraq who are just starting to get back on their feet? I suppose that if they agree with their Prime Minister, then they are just as responsible for whatever happens…but this seems like such a bad idea on so many levels.
And just when I thought we might be getting a handle on the Middle-East…I have long thought that the Middle-East would be the flashpoint for the start of the next world war, and now I get to worry about that all over again. We need to stay in Iraq at the moment, for their sake and for our sake. It is Obama’s job to convince the Iraqi parliament of that…I can’t say that I’m surprised that he got that wrong, just like almost everything else he has ever done in government.