National Security

Karl to Carney: How Could Obama Still Claim Iraq as a Signature Achievement?

ABC White House reporter Jonathan Karl challenged spokesman Jay Carney to say whether the Obama administration can still claim ending the war in Iraq and decimating core al Qaeda as signature foreign policy achievements Thursday.

Iraq's situation has deteriorated rapidly, with the city of Mosul falling Tuesday to an al Qaeda-linked organization that further destabilized the country.

"The president and senior officials in this White House have repeatedly, over the years and as recently as Tuesday, described as the president's top foreign policy accomplishment ending the war in Iraq and decimating and destroying core al Qaeda," Karl said. "Given what we're seeing now in Iraq, can you still claim those as two of your signature achievements?"

"What the president made clear as we wound down the war in Iraq is that we need to be a good partner to the government in Iraq and provide the assistance that we can at their request to help them meet their security challenges, and we have done that," Carney said. "Ultimately, Iraq's future has to be decided through reconciliation of the political factions within Iraq and a unified approach to dealing with the challenge posed by a group like the ISIL."

Karl followed up by asking again whether he could still claim al Qaeda decimation as a victory for the White House, given its control over major Iraqi cities.

"Within your question you have made the appropriate distinction, which is core [al Qaeda] based in Afghanistan and Pakistan has unquestionably been severely compromised and decimated," Carney said. "I don't think anybody would disagree with that."

Full exchange:

JONATHAN KARL: The president and senior officials in this White House have repeatedly, over the years and as recently as Tuesday, described as the president's top foreign policy accomplishment ending the war in Iraq and decimating and destroying core al Qaeda. Given what we're seeing now in Iraq, can you still claim those as two of your signature achievements?

JAY CARNEY: There is no question that the president pledged to end the war in Iraq, and he did. And that was –

KARL: There's no war in Iraq right now?

CARNEY: U.S. combat mission in Iraq.

KARL: U.S. combat.

CARNEY: What is also the case and what the president made clear as we wound down the war in Iraq is that we need to be a good partner to the government in Iraq and provide the assistance that we can at their request to help them meet their security challenges, and we have done that. Ultimately, Iraq's future has to be decided through reconciliation of the political factions within Iraq and a unified approach to dealing with the challenge posed by a group like the ISIL

KARL: And decimating and destroying core al Qaeda when an al Qaeda-linked group is now in charge, in control of major cities in the — in the heart of Iraq?

CARNEY: Well, within the — within your question you have made the appropriate distinction, which is core (al Qaeda) based in Afghanistan and Pakistan has unquestionably been severely compromised and decimated. I don't think anybody would disagree with that.