Experts Warn President Against Precipitous Withdrawal in Iraq
5:42 PM, Sep 15, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
The boss and forty-one other policy experts have a written letter to the president, urging Obama not to draw down too quickly in Iraq (read Max Boot's editorial here):
The Honorable Barack Obama
Dear President Obama:
The United States has invested significant resources in Iraq over the last eight years. Under your leadership and that of your predecessor, America has helped Iraq’s fledgling democracy emerge as a symbol to other peoples of the region, becoming, in the words of former Secretary of Defense Gates, “a multi-sectarian, multi-ethnic society in the Arab world that shows that democracy can work.”
We are thus gravely concerned about recent news reports suggesting that the White House is considering leaving only a residual force of 4,000 or fewer U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of this year. This number is significantly smaller than what U.S. military commanders on the ground have reportedly recommended and would limit our ability to ensure that Iraq remains stable and free from significant foreign influence in the years to come.
While the Iraqi Security Forces have become increasingly capable of defending Iraq against internal threats, they are not yet able to defend Iraq from external forces. As a result, Iraq’s troops will require after the end of this year continued U.S. assistance in combined-arms training, border protection, air and naval capabilities, logistics, and intelligence. It is also essential that we maintain a significant military presence at multiple places along Iraq’s disputed internal boundaries to allow the United States to assist Kurds and Arabs in the disputed zones with confidence-building.
In recent months, Iran has increased its attempts to expand its influence in Iraq, including through the killing of American forces and support to Iraqi political parties. Maintaining a robust American presence in-country would blunt these efforts, and help ensure Iraq remains oriented away from Iran and a long-term ally of the United States.
We therefore urge you to ensure that an adequate number of U.S. troops in Iraq remain after 2011. We were encouraged by your pragmatism in 2009 as you showed flexibility in the pace of America’s drawdown. We believe that the same pragmatism would counsel a significantly larger force than 4,000 U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of this year.
Failure to leave a significant U.S. military presence in Iraq will leave the country more vulnerable to internal and external threats, thus imperiling the hard-fought gains in security and governance made in recent years at significant cost to the United States. A successful, democratic Iraq will remain a model for other emerging Arab democracies and one day, its neighbor, Iran. However, a failing state in the heart of the Middle East would destabilize the region, empower Iran, and make vain more than eight years of efforts by the United States in Iraq.
You have fulfilled your campaign commitment to the nation to end the war in Iraq. Now, we request that you ensure that in doing so, we do not lose the peace.