Who’s Really to Blame for the Withdrawal from Iraq?
4:31 PM, Nov 16, 2011 • By GARY SCHMITT
Yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey on Iraqi security issues in light of the fact that, come January, there will be virtually no U.S. troops stationed there. In what can only be described as a first-rate senatorial butt kicking, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took apart the two administration witnesses’ effort to explain why, after so much blood and treasure has been expended in creating a democratic Iraq, we’re now left with zero combat forces in country.
The senator observed that the spin in Washington has been that most of the blame rests with the Iraqis and Iraqi politics—a spin the White House has been only too glad to have. But he then pointed out that the Kurds wanted American troops to stay, that the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Osama al-Najafi, the leading Sunni politician, had said he wanted U.S. forces to stay and, finally, that Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki had stated the same. Sen. Graham then noted that, on a trip he had taken to Iraq this past May, he had been told by U.S. commander Gen. Lloyd Austin that Washington had not even given the Iraqi government an estimate of what troop levels the U.S. thought might be needed to continue to train Iraqi forces and work with them in dealing with the 1,000 al Qaeda estimated by then-director of the Central Intelligence Agency Panetta to be operating in Iraq. Pushed, Gen. Lloyd then told the senator that perhaps as many as 19,000 U.S. troops would be required to carry out those missions. So, as Sen. Graham drew the picture at the hearing—or, more accurately, tightened the noose around the witnesses’ necks—all the major players in Iraq were in favor of the U.S. staying, as was the American military, but somehow this administration couldn’t get an agreement on keeping troops in Iraq done?
Well worth watching the whole thing (Graham’s exchange with Panetta and Dempsey begins at 132:45).