Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) listens to the generals — so much so that he has advocated on numerous occasions that President Obama defer his powers as commander-in-chief to American military commanders fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last month, McCain, along with Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), attacked Obama for reportedly considering keeping only a small force of U.S. troops (3,000) in Iraq after the year-end total withdrawal deadline. “This is dramatically lower than what our military leaders have consistently told us over the course of repeated visits to Iraq that they require.”
Yesterday on CNN, responding to recent reports that the administration is now abandoning plans to keep any troops in Iraq past 2011, McCain complained that “this whole issue has been terribly mishandled.” He said the U.S. needs at least 13,000 troops in Iraq to protect the Kurdish border region:
MCCAIN: The fact is that there is a very volatile areas between the Kurdish areas in Iraq in the north that needs peacekeeping forces. They need technical assistance on intelligence. They need help with their air assets, which they have literally none. And this has been terribly mishandled in my view by the administration. We needed about 13,000 troops left behind.
But just over two weeks ago, Army Major General David Perkins said that U.S. troops are no longer needed for that purpose, AFP reported:
Large numbers of US troops are no longer needed on the ground in northern Iraq to defuse Arab-Kurdish tensions and have begun handing over control to local forces, a US commander said Thursday.
Army Major General David Perkins, who leads 5,000 US troops deployed in northern Iraq, said the American contingent has gradually withdrawn from checkpoints that it had overseen to prevent clashes between Kurdish troops and Iraqi army and police. [...]
“Clearly there is not the need for them (US troops) to play the role they had, especially in the numbers they had. We have proven right now that out at the checkpoints they can run perfectly fine without US presence there at all.”
So maybe McCain doesn’t listen to all the generals. Or maybe he just listens to the ones he agrees with.