Top General Says U.S. May Maintain Permanent U.S. Bases In Iraq

Yesterday, Army Gen. John Abizaid, who runs U.S. operations in Iraq, said the United States may maintain permanent bases in Iraq. Reuters reports:

The United States may want to keep a long-term military presence in Iraq to bolster moderates against extremists in the region and protect the flow of oil, the Army general overseeing U.S. military operations in Iraq said on Tuesday.

While the Bush administration has downplayed prospects for permanent U.S. bases in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid told a House of Representatives subcommittee he could not rule that out.

Previously, the Bush administration has said that the United States will not maintain permanent bases in Iraq. Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes, 12/8/05:

CHARLIE ROSE: They think we are still there for the oil, or they think the United States wants permanent bases. Does the United States want permanent bases in Iraq?

KAREN HUGHES: We want nothing more than to bring our men and women in uniform home. As soon as possible, but not before they finish the job.

CHARLIE ROSE: And do we not want to keep bases there?

KAREN HUGHES: No, we want to bring our people home as soon as possible.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the Central Command deputy commander for planning and strategy in Iraq, 1/28/06:

We already have handed over significant chunks of territory to the Iraqis…[I]t is not only our plan but our policy that we do not intend to have any permanent bases in Iraq.

Times, apparently, have changed.