Various media outlets reported last week that the Obama administration plans on keeping only 3,000 troops in Iraq past 2011. While top officials denied that a decision has been made, and the Iraqis have yet to agree to any U.S. troop presence in to 2012, the Iraq war cheerleaders came out swinging, calling the reported decision a “boon to the Iranians,” and a “political decision being managed out of the Chicago campaign headquarters.”
Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) piled on, saying in a statement that 3,000 troops is “dramatically lower” than what military leaders had told them they want. Today on Fox News Sunday, McCain went a bit further, saying “no military person” supports having such a small U.S. force in Iraq past 2011:
McCAIN: On the issue of the troop withdrawals, I try to support the president as much as I can, these are important issues. … There is no military person that doesn’t believe we need a residual force in Iraq far in excess of the size that apparently is being planned. In Libya, that conflict could have been over a long, long time ago if we had used the full weight of American air power. You can’t lead from behind in this country. And the fact is is that there is a perception in the world, rightly or wrongly, that the United States is in decline and that we are in many ways withdrawing to fortress America. We can’t afford to do that.
Apparently, McCain hasn’t talked with former top U.S. commander in Iraq and now Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno:
The new U.S. Army chief warned against leaving too large a force in Iraq after a year-end deadline, saying on Sept. 8 that it could feed the perception of an American “occupation.”
Gen. Ray Odierno, former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq until last year, told reporters the United States had to carefully balance how many troops were needed to assist Iraqi forces while scaling back the U.S. profile.
“I will say when I was leaving Iraq a year ago, I always felt we had to be careful about leaving too many people in Iraq,” said Odierno, who took over as Army chief of staff on Sept. 7. [...]
Odierno said “the larger the force that we leave behind …(the more) comments of ‘occupation force’ remain. And we get away from why we are really there – to help them to continue to develop.
Odierno wouldn’t say whether 3,000 troops was the right force size but he said that “there comes a time…when it (U.S. presence) becomes counter-productive.”