Pentagon: ‘Public Discussion’ Of Iraq Withdrawal ‘Reinforces Enemy Propaganda’

On May 23, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging him to “prepare plans for the phased redeployment of U.S. forces.”

Given the express will of the Congress to implement a phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq and the importance of proper contingency planning to achieve that goal, I write to request that you provide the appropriate oversight committees in Congress — including the Senate Armed Services Committee — with briefings on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Alternatively, if no such plans exist, please provide an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning.

Clinton said she conveyed similar concerns in a private meeting with Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace, and has publicly warned the administration that redeployment is “complicated” and “If they’re not planning for it, it will be difficult to execute it in a safe and efficacious way.”

On Monday, Clinton received a “biting reply” from Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman, who told Clinton that “public discussion” of withdrawal is inappropriate:


Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia. … [S]uch talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.

Edelman is directly contradicted by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who testified that debate over Iraq redeployment has been “helpful in bringing pressure to bear on the Maliki government.” Additionally, these “very same Iraqi allies” aren’t unnerved by talk of redeployment, but overwhelmingly favor it — 71 percent of Iraqis want the U.S. troops to withdraw within a year.

UPDATE: ThinkProgress has obtained Edelman’s letter HERE.

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