The neocons and war hawks that helped get the United States into war in Iraq do not want American troops to leave. That’s the message pro-Iraq war members of Congress and the neocon groups such as the Foreign Policy Initiative (a.k.a. “PNAC 2.0“) have been pushing since reports surfaced recently that the Obama administration is considering keeping only a few thousand troops in Iraq past the year-end total withdrawal deadline. The neocons argue that Iraq will descend into chaos and the nine years U.S. troops spent fighting there will be for naught if tens of thousands of American forces don’t stay in Iraq indefinitely.
Absent, of course, in any of these arguments is how the Iraqis may feel about it. Indeed, because of the security agreement President Bush signed with Iraq in 2008, the current order of battle is have zero American troops in Iraq by Jan. 1, 2012 and the Iraqis must agree to allow any U.S. troop presence beyond that date. But as the evidence so far would indicate, they don’t seem all that interested. Some Iraqi leaders are worried about security when the U.S. finally leaves. Ayad Allawi, former Iraqi prime minister and top rival to current prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, is one of them, but he said having American troops past 2011 isn’t the solution, Yochi Dreazen reports:
“We have serious security problems in this country and serious political problems,” Allawi said in an interview at his heavily guarded compound here. “Keeping Americans in Iraq longer isn’t the answer to the problems of Iraq. It may be an answer to the problems of the U.S., but it’s definitely not the solution to the problems of my country.”
Popular Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his followers have repeatedly and consistently made clear that they do not want any American military in Iraq past 2011. “I will say it frankly: If the American soldiers stay, even one, we will fight them with force, with our militias and our brigades,” Sadrist lawmaker Jawad al-Shihaily told Dreazen.
One key security concern is the volatile Iraqi Kurdistan border region, and it’s the reason some, like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), want more U.S. troops in Iraq past 2011. “We need at least 10,000 to 13,000 troops on the border between Kurdistan and Iraq — it’s very dangerous,” he said last night on Fox News. While the autonomous region’s leader has also called for U.S. troops to stay, some Kurds in Parliament are speaking out against any continued U.S. presence:
Maliki also faces pressure from unexpected sources like Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish lawmaker considered one of the most pro-American members of parliament. In an interview, Othman said his own thinking had shifted in recent weeks as the debate over the troop extension dragged on.
“Personally, I no longer want them to stay,” Othman said. “It’s been eight years. I don’t think having Americans stay in Iraq will improve the situation at all. Leaving would be better for them and for us. It’s time for us to go our separate ways.”
Without an agreement among the Iraqis, U.S. forces will totally withdraw in three months. “We are on track to meet the president’s goal of withdrawing all American troops from Iraq by the end of the year,” a spokesman for Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said yesterday.