Gates: We’ll stay in Iraq if Baghdad requests it

posted at 10:55 am on April 7, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Progressive heads explode in 5, 4, 3, 2 ….

The Obama administration would keep U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the agreed final withdrawal date of Dec. 31, 2011, if the Iraqi government wanted them, but the Iraqis need to decide “pretty quickly” in order for the Pentagon to accommodate the extension, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday during what he said probably is his final visit to this war-torn country.

Whether to negotiate an extended U.S. military presence is up to the Iraqis, he said, adding that he thought an extension might make sense.

“We are willing to have a presence beyond (2011), but we’ve got a lot of commitments,” he said, not only in Afghanistan and Libya but also in Japan, where he said 19 U.S. Navy ships and about 18,000 U.S. military personnel are assisting in earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor relief efforts.

“So if folks here are going to want us to have a presence, we’re going to need to get on with it pretty quickly in terms of our planning,” he added. “I think there is interest in having a continuing presence. The politics are such that we’ll just have to wait and see because the initiative ultimately has to come from the Iraqis.”

Just as with the reversals on closing Guantanamo Bay’s detention facility and trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian court, this policy change makes a lot of sense.  The US has invested a tremendous amount of blood, treasure, and diplomatic credibility on creating a stable, democratic representative republic in Iraq.  We have a deep interest in seeing it succeed, if for no other reason than to prove that an Arab democracy is possible and can maintain itself without falling under the thumb of nearby dictatorships.  The security forces in Iraq still need American logistical support and training, and their near-nonexistent air force needs a great deal of development.

However, this represents a remarkable turnaround for Barack Obama, and one that will further infuriate his base if the Iraqis take up Gates on his offer.  While Obama campaigned on a promise to commit more resources to the war in Afghanistan, a pledge his supporters assumed was strictly rhetorical until Obama actually fulfilled it, Obama specifically campaigned on ending American involvement in Iraq.  He pledged to pull the US out of the country within 16 months, the soonest an orderly withdrawal could possibly be completed.  Once in office, he fell back to the existing, Bush-negotiated Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), but his supporters still credited Obama with positioning the US to be fully withdrawn from Iraq in his first term.

If we stay in Iraq through 2012 — and we should be thinking about a military alliance along the same lines as South Korea — what exactly will Obama be able to tell his base in the election campaign about hope and change?  At this point, the only difference between Obama and a John McCain presidency is that McCain might have actually closed Gitmo and spent a lot less money.  Talk about buyers’ remorse.

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Hope and chainguns ®

rogerb on April 7, 2011 at 11:01 AM

I have problems with this….My main one right now is that we need 125% cost recovery from the Iraqi government. This should be a zero cost affair.

Oil Can on April 7, 2011 at 11:01 AM

Obama is awesome.

Electrongod on April 7, 2011 at 11:03 AM

I like what Trump said about not leaving the oil behind for Iran. Iran can;t be allowed to take over the Middle East….period.

Hening on April 7, 2011 at 11:07 AM

Too funny

*shaking the head*

cmsinaz on April 7, 2011 at 11:09 AM

So what are Obama’s Progressive accomplishments???
Thanks for the TEA Party…

mjbrooks3 on April 7, 2011 at 11:10 AM

Why that stupid idiot, Bush!!! How dare he keep us over there for longer than we should b-….errr Oh riiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Obutthead is the President!!!

What say you now, commies?

capejasmine on April 7, 2011 at 11:12 AM

Hope and chainguns ®
rogerb on April 7, 2011 at 11:01 AM

I’m stealing that and you won’t get an ounce of credit (I was taught my ways by a Chinese businessman).

Bishop on April 7, 2011 at 11:15 AM

That’s great. So the US takes its orders from the Iraqis. Whether the US stays anywhere should be a matter for the people of the US to decide, not some clown in Iraq. This is what you call another punt by Obama. The man never wants to own anything.

keep the change on April 7, 2011 at 11:16 AM

Progressive heads explode in 5, 4, 3, 2 ….

How many Progressive heads are even left after all these right turns?

Tony737 on April 7, 2011 at 11:17 AM

The O probably calculated that it would not look good for his reelections prospects, if he manage somewhat to lose Iraq to Iran.

El Coqui on April 7, 2011 at 11:21 AM

How is it that we expect Mubarak’s departure in Egypt lead to a democratic government (Libya and Tunisia too), but after 8 years we still may need to nurture Iraq’s?

cartooner on April 7, 2011 at 11:28 AM

It should not be up to the “Iraqis”. First of all there is no monolithic group that represents “the Iraqis”. The entire enterprise of invading Islamic nations and trying to reform them in the mold of Democracy has failed. It was worth a shot but we should be willing to admit we learned a lesson.

echosyst on April 7, 2011 at 11:31 AM

This will never end will it? Never believe people in power, they don’t know tomorrow any better then a bum on the street.

CTDeLude on April 7, 2011 at 11:43 AM

OT but related to the dhimmitude in our government:
What is wrong with our State Department?

onlineanalyst on April 7, 2011 at 11:46 AM



Calling crr6?

Is this thing on?

catmman on April 7, 2011 at 11:50 AM

They have no idea what they’re doing, and the confusion strengthens the enemy immeasurably.

paul1149 on April 7, 2011 at 11:55 AM

Exit strategery.

Kissmygrits on April 7, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Progressive heads explode

really ED?

Do ya really think the majority of “progressives” give a shit?

Iraq was nothing more than a stick to beat the Republicans with….. same as Gitmo and all the others…

But then again the Republicans do the same thing…..

and it’s nothing more than a dog and pony show…so that the citizens “think” there is some kind of difference. And their vote is some valuable commodity that is tied a sign of their freedom & liberty…hahahaha…

They both pay homage to “Democracy” which is really nothing more than another word for mob rule. While the TRUE form of the American Experiment- A CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC vanishes from history.


donabernathy on April 7, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Now Iraq.

Brilliant strategy. He’s going for the neocon vote in 2012! He’ll get 50% of the Left, Center and Right and win by a landslide!

Mr_Magoo on April 7, 2011 at 12:05 PM

Bishop on April 7, 2011 at 11:15 AM

Use it like a cudgel when you see fit.

rogerb on April 7, 2011 at 12:09 PM

catmman on April 7, 2011 at 11:50 AM

It is hiding.

antisocial on April 7, 2011 at 12:16 PM

Bush’s SOFA with the Iraqis should be followed
They can protect themselves and have the funds to do it. It’s not in our interests or their to stay.

LeeSeneca on April 7, 2011 at 12:28 PM

Talk about buyers’ remorse.

Which “buyers” have shown the remorse necessary for it to make a difference?

Oh, and Halliburton, Fox News, the Koch Brothers.

mankai on April 7, 2011 at 12:39 PM

Meet the new boss…

mankai on April 7, 2011 at 12:40 PM

Progressive heads explode in 5, 4, 3, 2…


Obama is awesome.

Electrongod on April 7, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Fallon on April 7, 2011 at 12:42 PM

They want us to STAY, they better PAY.
That Iraqi oil would burn just fine here.

HornetSting on April 7, 2011 at 12:52 PM

I say it again. The U.S. troops will be in Iraq for longer than they’ve been in Germany and South Korea.

I expected Dave Rywall and crr6 to be in here and defend Obama.

Schadenfreude on April 7, 2011 at 1:24 PM

Where’s a damn time machine when you need it?

Machiavelli Hobbes on April 7, 2011 at 1:28 PM

We have been saying this on the military side all along.
Read the last 5 published quarterly reports to congress.
This is not a new position – it is the US military trying to give the GoI a hint that ISF is not ready yet.

It never was planned to be ready. Last year the Iraqi PM issued a gag-order to the security ministries on the subject of their readiness. From 2006 until that gag-order, the Iraqi Minister of Defense and his senior officers were consistent in describing the planned development of the ISF:

Phase 1 [2006-2010] Tactical independence.
This is internal security only.

Phase 2 [2011-2015] Operational independence.
This is handing internal security to police primacy while shifting the IMoD services [IA/IQAF/IQN/IQM] to external defense and overwatch of the MoI [IP/FP/OP/DBE/FPS].

Phase 3 [2016-2020] Strategic independence.
This is the ISF standing on its own. The long pole in this is air defense. Iraq’s only air defense now is the USAF. They have yet to buy their first jet trainer – let alone fighters….

DJ Elliott on April 7, 2011 at 3:14 PM

DJ is exactly right. It has been known for years that Iraq will not be able to fully handle their self-defense needs until around 2016 or later. If they ask us to stay and help we should take the offer. It would be a counter to Iranian influence in Iraq and it would help to improve the alliance with and the professionalism of the officers and NCOs in the Iraqi military.

Dave E. on April 7, 2011 at 4:24 PM

That effort, however, did not allow the opportunity to focus in earnest on providing for an Iraqi capability for defense against external threats, Austin acknowledged.

“So the Iraqis still need to work on that,” he said. “[They need] the ability to defend the skies, and they still need work on combined-arms training — modern equipment, modern tanks and howitzers, and tanks and howitzers working together in combined action.”

Going forward, the general added, the Iraqi security forces also must continue working to improve their logistics systems and further develop their intelligence capabilities.

Austin said the Iraqis have a good appreciation for what they need, and if they believe they’ll require help in the future, they’ll have to request it.

DJ Elliott on April 7, 2011 at 6:17 PM