Obama Wanted to Stay in Iraq


President Obama attacked Gov. Romney for wanting to keep troops in Iraq—but the president wanted to keep troops in Iraq, too, and failed to mention it tonight.

Foreign Policy reported last year after negotiations had failed:

The Obama administration is claiming it always intended to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year, in line with the president’s announcement today, but in fact several parts of the administration appeared to try hard to negotiate a deal for thousands of troops to remain — and failed.

And in a lengthy piece on the last months of U.S. involvement in Iraq, the New York Times wrote about negotiations over the number of remaining troops:

On Aug. 13, Mr. Obama settled the matter in a conference call in which he ruled out the 10,000 troop option and a smaller 7,000 variant. The talks would proceed but the size of the force the United States might keep was shrunk: the new goal would be a continuous presence of about 3,500 troops, a rotating force of up to 1,500 and half a dozen F-16’s.

But there was no agreement. Some experts say that given the Iraqis’ concerns about sovereignty, and Iranian pressure, the politicians in Baghdad were simply not prepared to make the hard decisions that were needed to secure parliamentary approval. Others say the Iraqis sensed the Americans’ ambivalence and were being asked to make unpopular political decisions for a modest military benefit.

The president wrote before coming into office:

Obama and Biden believe it is vital that a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) be reached so our troops have the legal protections and immunities they need. Any SOFA should be subject to Congressional review to ensure it has bipartisan support here at home.

But the president failed in this goal, as the Huffington Post reported:

The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline, The Associated Press has learned. The decision to pull out fully by January will effectively end more than eight years of U.S. involvement in the Iraq war, despite ongoing concerns about its security forces and the potential for instability.

Summary: No matter what the president said, his administration pursued the possibility of keeping troops in Iraq, and then failed to get the necessary agreement.