Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a leading and outspoken supporter of the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq and even defended the White House’s controversial failure to reach a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government.
Team Obama’s decisions in Iraq are coming under intense criticism from experts and lawmakers across the political spectrum in light of the seizure of key Iraqi cities by a violent Muslim extremist group that is seeking to transform the nation into a strict Islamic state.
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Clinton emerged as one of the top supporters of the withdrawal and defended the administration's failure to secure a status of forces agreement, which would have kept several thousand U.S. troops in the war-torn country and potentially prevented extremist terror groups from resurging in Iraq, according to a Washington Free Beacon review of the likely presidential candidate’s past statements and interviews.
Clinton touted the United States’ commitment to Iraq in 2011 and said the Obama administration has "a plan in place" to ensure Iraq’s security.
"Are the Iraqis all going to get along with each other for the foreseeable future?" Clinton wondered in one 2011 interview. "Well, let's find out."
Clinton went on to claim in a separate 2011 interview with CNN that "we have a lot of presence in that region." She added that countries such as Iran should not "miscalculate about our continuing commitment to and with the Iraqis going forward."
Iran has done precisely this in recent days.
The regime in Tehran has already vowed to send its forces to Iraq to defend the current government from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the extremist terror group currently overthrowing Iraqi cities.
Clinton also attempted during the 2011 interview to assure critics that the White House has "a plan in place."
"There's been an enormous amount of effort in conjunction with the Iraqi government," Clinton said at the time. "The Iraqi government is looking forward. They're trying to chart a new course that will give them the kind of independence and sovereignty from everyone, including their big neighbor, Iran, and we're going to support that. It's very much in America's interests to do so."
Clinton, in a separate interview with NBC’s David Gregory in 2011, promised that the United States would continue training and supporting Iraqi forces, which have been overthrown in major cities in recent days.
"We are providing a support-and-training mission," Clinton said at the time. "We will be there on the ground working with the Iraqis. And I just want to add, David, that no one should miscalculate America's resolve and commitment to helping support the Iraqi democracy. We have paid too high a price to give the Iraqis this chance and I hope that Iran and no one else miscalculates that."
Three planeloads of Americans were evacuated from Iraq on Thursday as the violence there increased. The evacuation "means that the vital training mission" at the U.S. base in Balad "has been suspended indefinitely," according to Fox News.
Clinton committed in 2011 that the United States would "do everything we can to help" Iraq and ensure that "democracy flourishes."
Clinton also "sought to play down" the White House’s failure to reach a status of forces agreement with Iraq before pulling troops out of the country.
Clinton reportedly "sought to play down the failure of negotiations between the Obama administration and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to keep several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq beyond 2011 for special operations and training," according to the Washington Post.
Clinton told NBC during the October 2011 interview with Gregory that Obama’s failure to secure a status of forces agreement was actually the fault of former President George W. Bush.
"I think that they should have raised those issues when President Bush agreed to the agreement to withdraw troops by the end of this year," Clinton said. "I feel like this is a debate that is looking backwards instead of forwards."
Clinton also praised Obama’s "great leadership."
"We know that the violence is not going to automatically end, but President Obama has shown great leadership in navigating to this point, fulfilling his promise, meeting the obligations that were entered into before he ever came into office," she said. "We are providing a support-and-training mission. We will be there on the ground working with the Iraqis."
Members of Congress and regional experts in recent days have criticized the decisions and defenses offered by the Obama administration on Iraq, saying that the policy was naïve and unrealistic.
"Let’s be blunt: It was a policy decision to withdraw completely from Iraq," Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq, told the Free Beacon. "Iraqis complained that Obama and Clinton simply wouldn’t take ‘yes’ for an answer in having some Americans stay."
"The idea that the Iraqis wouldn’t give American forces immunity is nonsense," Rubin explained. "The problem was that Obama and Clinton demanded the Iraqi parliament ratify such an agreement, even though constitutionally it wasn’t necessary."
"Basically, what happened was a cynical political game," Rubin added. "Obama saw the Iraq war as original sin. He figured he’d withdraw completely against all advice. If Iraq went to hell, he’d blame Bush and if somehow it succeeded, he’d claim credit. That Hillary went along with this shows just how willing she is to put politics above national security and lives."