Iraq

Generals propose staying in Iraq longer than 16 months

General Odierno and General Petraeus, President-elect Obama’s top commanders on Iraq, are recommending a timetable for withdrawal that would extend the American combat troops’ presence in Iraq. The generals’ timetable is longer than Mr. Obama’s campaign pledge of a 16-month combat troop withdrawal plan, which polls show 70 percent of Americans support.

According to the New York Times,

The plan, completed last week, envisions withdrawing two more brigades, or some 7,000 to 8,000 troops, from Iraq in the first six months of 2009, the military officials said. But that would leave 12 combat brigades in Iraq by June 2009, and while declining to be more specific, the officials made clear that the withdrawal of all combat forces under the generals’ recommendations would not come until some time after May 2010, Mr. Obama’s target….

The plan drafted by General Odierno and General Petraeus was drawn up to meet the so-called status of forces agreement between the United States and Iraqi governments that calls for all American forces to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011 and all combat troops out of Iraqi cities by June 2009. The agreement sets forth both a shorter and longer timetable than Mr. Obama’s campaign pledge, with some combat forces out sooner but all forces out later.

A responsible, complete, and quick withdrawal from Iraq is necessary and possible. Our continued presence fuels the perception of a permanent occupation and alienates Iraqi citizens, who clearly have a strong desire for US troops to withdraw. Shoe-throwing journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi is being hailed as a hero in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, and thousands have taken to the streets to protest his detention. Setting a clear timeline for withdrawal will build greater trust with the Iraqi people and government and send a message that they must move forward on political reconciliation. Removing the military presence will also free up financial resources for domestic and security needs. As Larry Korb of the Center for American Progress has demonstrated, a safe, orderly withdrawal of combat troops can be realistically accomplished within 8 to 10 months, a much faster timeline. All of which throws into question why we’re talking about extending our military presence in Iraq even longer.

Those of us who want to see the war ended as quickly as possible will need to continue to be vocal as more people begin to pressure Mr. Obama to slow down the withdrawal. There’s always another reason to stay in Iraq for supporters of the war. When the going gets tough, it’s essential that we continue to have troops in Iraq. And when things are going well, it’s still essential that we continue to have troops in Iraq to ensure it stays that way.

Here are a few of the ever-changing justifications for staying in Iraq over the years, starting with the newest by Gen. Odierno.

December 2009:

General Odierno said that it was particularly important for American troops to support Iraqis in 2009, when three elections, at the provincial, district and national levels, are scheduled. “It’s important that we maintain enough presence here that we can help them through this year of transition,” he said.

April 2008:

A year ago, the president said we couldn't withdraw because there was too much violence," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). "Now he says we can't afford to withdraw because violence is down."

Petraeus and Crocker repeated warnings that al-Qaeda in Iraq, while weakened, remains a threat. But they described an ongoing U.S. troop presence as necessary largely because no one is certain that security gains will endure if U.S. forces leave. The consequences of withdrawal, Crocker said, "could be grave.

September 2007:

The report from Gen. David Petraeus, the US commander in Iraq, was not all good, but for him, progress in reducing violence in the months of the "surge" warrants keeping higher numbers of US troops there and following the current strategy until summer 2008.

December 2005:

"I realize some have advocated a sudden withdrawal of our forces. This would be unwise in the extreme — a victory for terrorists, bad for the Iraqi people and bad for the United States," Cheney said to cheers from the crowd of 3,000 troops. "To leave that country before the job is done would be to hand over Iraq to car-bombers and assassins."

June 2005:

The January elections allowed the United States to turn over more control for security to the Iraqis and set the stage for a new constitution to be written and approved this fall. Once that happens, White House officials say, a democratically elected Iraqi government protected by a better trained and equipped Iraqi military will hold off what remains of the insurgency and gradually allow U.S. forces to withdraw…. Bush and Cheney, however, continue to decline to set deadlines for how long U.S. troops will remain.

Categories: Iraq

2 replies »

  1. Many groups, including Peace Action West, worked to make sure any Iraq war funding was attached to a timeline for withdrawal during Congress’ last budget cycle. The Fiscal Year 2010 budget process has not begun yet, but we’ll keep an eye on any funding for the war in Iraq. Once President-elect Obama takes office later this month, we should also have a better sense of what will happen in terms of withdrawing from Iraq.