Yesterday Fox News reported that the Obama administration had decided that the United States will keep only 3,000 troops in Iraq past 2011. Fox said that “senior commanders are said to be livid at the decision, which has already been signed off by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.” However Panetta denied the report yesterday and White House spokesperson Jay Carney said yesterday that “no decisions on troop levels have been made.”
And the war hawks wasted no time attacking the president. Iraq war cheerleaders Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) issued a statement saying they are “deeply troubled” by the report, saying 3,000 troops is “dramatically lower than what our military leaders have consistently told us over the course of repeated visits to Iraq that they require.” John Bolton and Karl Rove piled on this morning on Fox News:
BOLTON: It’s a political decision. … I think everything is at risk now. This is a boon to the Iranians. It’s giving them a gift strategically that they could never have won on their own.
ROVE: [This is] clearly a political decision being managed out of the Chicago campaign headquarters and not out of the Pentagon.
Watch the clips:
One important factor that this criticism leaves out, of course, is that the decision is ultimately up to the Iraqis. As it stands now, the United States is set to have zero troops in Iraq past 2011. American officials have said publicly for many months that the U.S. is willing to keep troops in Iraq if the Iraqis want. However, Iraqi officials have gone back and forth on whether they will even attempt to make an internal agreement.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, who will soon take over as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reminded that “we should all realize that the Iraqi government will also have a say in what size structure and what size force should remain and for what purposes.”