Posted by Wordsmith on 23 July, 2019 at 1:16 am. 11 comments already!


 
President Obama addresses troops at Fort Bragg to mark the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. AAP

Joe Biden apparently wants to claim credit for withdrawing 150,000 U.S. combat troops from Iraq blame for President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq and failure to renegotiate SoFA. WaPo factcheck‘s Biden’s claim for blame- er….credit:



“I made sure the president turned to me and said, ‘Joe, get our combat troops out of Iraq.’ I was responsible for getting 150,000 combat troops out of Iraq, and my son was one of them.”

— Former vice president Joe Biden, at a Democratic presidential candidate debate, Miami, June 28

“When I was vice president, the president gave me all the easy jobs, like ‘take care of getting all our troops out of Iraq,’ which we did.”

— Biden, at a campaign event in Manning, Iowa, July 16

Biden voted for the Iraq War when he was a senator, and many Democrats won’t let him forget it.

When his vote came up during a Democratic presidential primary debate on June 28, Biden said Americans could trust his judgment on questions of war because, as vice president, he was in charge of pulling all U.S. combat troops from Iraq. Weeks later, Biden made a similar claim at a campaign stop in Iowa.

In his first term, President Barack Obama gave Biden oversight of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. But the history is much more checkered than what Biden recalls. For starters, Obama sent U.S. troops back into Iraq in his second term. Biden was still the vice president.

To recap:

In 2002, Biden voted in favor of authorizing military force against Iraq. He was the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time, so his vote was no small thing for the administration of Republican President George W. Bush.

In 2008, just before leaving office, Bush entered into a “status of forces agreement” with the Iraqi government that included a deadline to withdraw U.S. troops by the end of 2011. For complex political reasons, Bush agreed to the deadline with the expectation that the next president would seek an extension that after 2011 would leave in place 40,000 service members for training and logistics.

 Salvador Rizzo does a good job of running through the timeline and accurately and fairly supports VP Biden’s claims to being President Obama’s liason and go-to-man for dealing with Iraq.

Up to this point, Biden’s claim mostly checks out. Although Bush set the 2011 withdrawal time frame, the Obama administration had to figure out the logistics and details, and much of that work fell to Biden and his committee. The drawdown proceeded in phases, with U.S. forces dropping from 150,000 to 50,000 to almost zero during Obama’s first term.

However, the United States kept several thousand military contractors in Iraq throughout this time and after 2011. And although Obama promised to end the Iraq War as a candidate, there were bumps along the road that complicate Biden’s neatly wrapped-up story.

Before withdrawing forces in 2011, Obama’s administration tried to persuade Iraqi political leaders to allow a residual force of about 3,500 U.S. troops to remain. Some high-level officials in the Obama administration argued that a total withdrawal would open up a power vacuum in Iraq and erase the gains secured by U.S. forces and international allies.

“It was clear to me — and many others — that withdrawing all our forces would endanger the fragile stability then barely holding Iraq together,” Leon Panetta, who was Obama’s CIA director from 2009 to 2011 and defense secretary from 2011 to 2013, wrote in his memoir, “Worthy Fights.”

In 2011, the United States was seeking legal immunity for U.S. troops as part of an agreement for a continued military presence in Iraq. But there was no support in the Iraqi parliament for that, Biden’s advisers said.

“There was simply no majority for that in the Iraqi parliament,” Blinken said. “The Iraqis at that point in time wanted the Americans out. . . . At that point in Iraq’s history, we had become in their eyes, rightly or wrongly, an occupying force.”

In Panetta’s telling, the Obama White House did not push hard enough.

Privately, the various leadership factions in Iraq all confided that they wanted some U.S. forces to remain as a bulwark against sectarian violence. But none was willing to take that position publicly, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki concluded that any Status of Forces Agreement, which would give legal protection to those forces, would have to be submitted to the Iraqi parliament for approval. That made reaching agreement very difficult given the internal politics of Iraq, but representatives of the Defense and State departments, with scrutiny from the White House, tried to reach a deal.

We had leverage. We could, for instance, have threatened to withdraw reconstruction aid to Iraq if al-Maliki would not support some sort of continued U.S. military presence. My fear, as I voiced to the President and others, was that if the country split apart or slid back into the violence that we’d seen in the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, it could become a new haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the U.S. Iraq’s stability was not only in Iraq’s interest but also in ours. I privately and publicly advocated for a residual force that could provide training and security for Iraq’s military.

Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy did her best to press that position, which reflected not just my views but also those of the military commanders in the region and the Joint Chiefs. But the President’s team at the White House pushed back, and the differences occasionally became heated. Flournoy argued our case, and those on our side viewed the White House as so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests.

Biden apparently was one of the officials arguing to keep troops in Iraq, but then went along with the decision to pull out entirely.

“Biden also supported a continued U.S. military presence, although he appeared to prefer low numbers,” Jeffrey, the former ambassador, wrote in Foreign Policy magazine. “But when White House officials got cold feet about the effort to extend troops and levied unattainable demands on the Iraqi leadership, Biden weighed in for not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. But, once a decision was made, he would loyally stand by it and support people in the field — unlike some in the Obama White House.”

It’s hard to square that recollection from Jeffrey with Biden’s at the June 28 debate: “I made sure the president turned to me and said, ‘Joe, get our combat troops out of Iraq.’ ” Biden’s advisers said there was going to be a drawdown of U.S. forces no matter what in 2011, and the questions then were about the size of the residual force.

Obama considered leaving behind several thousand troops in 2011. Two and a half years later, with no U.S. forces in the picture, the Islamic State terrorist group began to take control of parts of Iraq. Obama by 2016 had sent 5,000 U.S. troops back into the country to beat back the ISIS tide. Biden was still the vice president, but he left this inconvenient history out of his remarks in Iowa and his response in the Democratic presidential candidate debate.

~~~
as we reported in 2016, Obama administration officials have swung back and forth on their reasons for leaving Iraq, and “when the growing power of the Islamic State forced Obama to send troops back to Iraq, the spin changed.”

“The Obama administration had tried to reach an agreement for keeping additional troops in Iraq, with many top officials (including Clinton) believing a troop extension was essential,” we found in a fact check of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “When that deal fell through, in part because the White House did not press hard enough, Obama eagerly touted it as a campaign promise that was kept — until the rise of the Islamic State forced the administration to send troops back to Iraq. Then suddenly it was the Iraqi government’s fault that the troops were no longer in Iraq. Moreover, the reason for rejecting a deal with Iraq in 2011 — the lack of an immunity agreement endorsed by parliament — was quietly forgotten.”

Reading some comments online from Democrats- some for Biden and some against-, all of them want to conveniently gloss over decision failures on the part of the Obama administration from 2009 through to the end of President Obama’s 2nd term in office; and they want to go back and “whataboutBush” revisit the “original sin” of 2003’s OIF decision.

A couple of the old talking points that are rearing up again are “Bush disbanded the Iraqi army” and “Bush created ISIS”.

So here’s a recap of some of my old talking points on the matter:

Disbanding the Iraqi army appears to have been a unilateral decision on the part of Bremer (and Bush is responsible for Bremer). Bremer almost single-handedly insured the birth of the insurgency by disenfranchising Iraqis from participating in the direct shaping of their own future. The final nail in the coffin was UNSCR 1483 declaring the U.S. the occupying power on May 22nd. After that, the insurgency only grew.
 
Originally, for the purposes of liberation and not occupation, the White House and Pentagon did want to keep the Iraqi Army intact for post-war security.
 
Initial reports from Franks, too, indicates that leaflets were dropped telling personnel to stay in uniform, as the intent was to utilize them; but many didn’t. The Iraq army simply dissolved. Military personnel did come back looking for work and sheikhs also offering security work. Bremer screwed that one up. Of course, there was also the problem of corruption and lack of a real officer’s corp in the Iraq army to build from. There were elements of State and CIA that were never fully on board with the White House and Pentagon planning.
 
CENTCOM planners and Bill Luti had anticipated and averted almost every possible contingency except for the ones that did occur. I believe it was CIA that felt the police force and army would remain intact to provide security after the fall of the Regime. Didn’t happen. In his book, Franks said on April 10th, they ordered Iraqi troops “to remain in uniform at all times. Maintain unit integrity and good order and discipline in your units.”
 
“I wanted to see those defeated enemy troops kept in coherent units, commanded by their own officers, and paid in a combination of humanitarian assistance food and cash….[and] put to work for the Coalition on reconstruction.” As for the police, according to Luti, “the CIA told us that all we had to do was lop off the top layer of leadership, but when we did we found that the corruption went so deep that we had to start from scratch. Was that a mistake? You bet. But it was a mistake based on faulty intelligence.”
 
According to Luti, even though Bremer came to put out an order to disband the Iraqi Army, the Army had all but disbanded itself initially. Millions of leaflets were even dropped and warnings broadcast in Arabic by the Commando Solo aircraft for Iraqi soldiers to lay down their arms but remain in uniform. Instead of entire army units, U.S. troops often found empty uniforms neatly piled, even with rifles. Apparently Iraqi officers ordered their soldiers to simply go home.
 
As far as ISIS itself, there’s several years of history that occurred between OIF 2003 and ISIS 2014. Also, ISIS is not primarily made up of former Saddam Baathists and loyalists. They are first and foremost global and regional jihadis (gee, remember when the claims about Baathists being too secular to ever cooperate with religious terrorists?). Some of these Saddam officials and intelligence officers are in positions of ISIS leadership; but they are not in control.
 
When Bush left office, Iraq was fragile but stabilized.
 
Not supporting Iraqi election results in 2010 (which would have seen Maliki not win re-election) contributed to where we are today.
 
Not renegotiating SoFA in Dec 2011 helped to also contribute to where we are today. Yes, a renegotiation was expected and possible.
 
Almost immediately after withdrawing troops, Iraq began its current downward slide. In January 2014, Obama dismissed ISIS as a JV team. Throughout the year (and in Aug and Oct of 2013), Iraq had asked for military aid and airstrikes. Obama refused. By the end of 2014, Obama was disowning SoFA (his earlier claim of credit for “ending the war in Iraq” and “bringing the troops home”) and we were once more left with “Oh, it’s Bush’s fault. He signed SoFA and we were helpless to do anything but abide by it”.
 
The Civil War in Syria and how we’ve not done anything to help the situation improve there became a breeding ground for AQI’s Phoenix-rise into ISIS.
 
How we dropped the ball in 2010, 2011, and 2014.
 
Plenty of blame to go around. Saddam. Bush. Bremer. Maliki. Obama. Global jihad movement.
 
And if Biden wants to claim some of the “credit”, let him.

Regarding absence of troop immunity to Iraqi legal system?  Here’s a cut-and-paste of one of my responses back around 2016, along with some history:

Was it the issue of troop immunity? Nope. That is one of the talking points used today to save face in light of how Iraq spiralled back down almost as soon as our troops began leaving in Dec 2011.

Maliki offered to sign an executive order granting troop immunity but the Obama Administration didn’t want it (State Dept lawyers insisted on going through the Iraqi Council of Representatives). This is the same protection our current forces Obama resent into Iraq are currently operating under.

There were other means around the Troop Immunity issue, such as putting the remaining troops on the embassy’s diplomatic rolls, which would automatically give them immunity.

A number of people believe that the Obama White House did not push hard enough for a renegotiation (HIllary Clinton at the time advocated for a sizable troop presence in Iraq and like Panetta and Gates, believed in renegotiating a new SoFA) because they just didn’t have the will for it.

And when they failed, the administration put on a happy face and Obama was credited with “ending the war in Iraq” and “bringing the troops home”. Biden in 2010 prolcaimed on Larry King that Iraq could go down as this administration’s “greatest achievement” (this despite Senator Obama’s opposition to the 2007 Troop Surge and non-support of the Awakening that stabilized Iraq enough to make withdrawal possible).

During Bush’s tenure, the U.S. flexed its influence over Maliki to moderate his sectarian inclinations. During Obama’s, not so much. He essentially remained aloof from dealing with Iraq.

In 2010, a big mistake was made in the U.S. not supporting the results of the Iraqi election which would have shown the democratic process throwing Maliki out.

Maliki gravitated toward Iranian influence and Sunnis were alienated.

We have the Arab Spring. In 2011 there is the Syrian protests followed by Civil War. Redline anyone? Dithering on who to support?

The remnants of AQI- crushed decisively in Iraq- breeds anew amidst the chaos in Syria.

In 2013, Iraq began showing concerns of a rising Sunni militancy and asked the White House for airstrikes and military aid (Aug and Oct 2013, when ISIS was still batting Little League, I suppose). Obama refused.

In 2014, Iraq asked again (by this time, Obama already dismissed ISIS as a JV team in January) and was once again denied. Then by mid-June or July, the al Muthanna chemical weapons factory was seized by ISIS; and cities began to fall.

So now it’s no longer Obama claiming credit for ending our involvement in Iraq; but once again back to crediting/blaming Bush for SoFA that “ended the war in Iraq” and “brought the troops home”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_nxouSJq9c

Finally, the johnny-come-lately risk-averse, slow-deliberating (re: dithering) president sends some troops back into Iraq (with troop immunity they claimed prevented them from renegotiating a new SoFA) in advisory/training roles along with some airstrikes that makes it appear like we’re doing something.

ISIS’ metastasizing strength was not inevitable due to OIF 2003. The current suffering in Iraq was not inevitable due to OIF 2003. How ISIS gathered strength in Syria and our handling of the crisis there along with the Arab Spring in general all is happening under Obama’s watch.

If you still feel the need to blame Bush, go ahead. But please don’t excuse all the other players along the way that have taken part in all of this- especially the Zarqawis and al-Baghdadis. Strictly resorting to Bush-blame is political partisan derangement that ignores all the other ingredients in the stew; you might as well blame Saddam for invading Kuwait. Why start at March/April 2003? Do not give the current pos PotUS a free pass.

Is Bush responsible for creating ISIS?  Certainly no more than Obama (and Biden) are, in blame-handing to go around, if you wish to play that game (you will find some redundancy here, as what I am doing is saving myself time by cutting-and-pasting previous talking points of mine in debating moonbats on various comment threads on news sites when I had more time on my hands and interest in the subject matter):

Zarqawi is the “father” of ISIS; and you can trace its direct genealogy back to 1999.  That predates Bush.

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/ResearchNote_20_Zelin.pdf

You can also trace ISIS/AQI resurgence to the situation in Syria (on Obama’s watch); and our troop withdrawal in 2011 (also on Obama’s watch).

Yes, SoFA was signed by Bush Dec 2008 (for which Obama took credit by claiming he ended the war in Iraq and is responsible for bringing the troops home- until 2014, when ISIS began pouring back into Iraq and taking over cities; then it was back to “Bush blame”).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_nxouSJq9c

In 2010, we did not support the Iraqi election results and kept Maliki in power.  No, we didn’t “install” him.  The Da’wa Party Conference elected him to that PM position, and the US agreed to it.

Two months before the SoFA was set to expire, Obama finally sent a team to negotiate a new deal (as was always intended and expected since the first signing). Argument is: 1. Iraqis wanted us out. 2. Iraqi Parliament would never grant troop immunity

On the first issue, here’s what Leon Panetta (and he’s not alone in this) said in his book, “Worthy Fights” page 392:

“Privately, the various leadership factions in Iraq all confided that they wanted some U.S. forces to remain as a bulwark against sectarian violence. But none were willing to take that position publicly,”

On point 2,

Maliki offered to sign an executive order granting troop immunity but the Obama Administration didn’t want it (State Dept lawyers insisted on going through the Iraqi Council of Representatives). This is the same protection our current forces Obama resent into Iraq are currently operating under.

There were other means around the Troop Immunity issue, such as putting the remaining troops on the embassy’s diplomatic rolls, which would automatically give them immunity.

A number of people believe that the Obama White House did not push hard enough for a renegotiation (HIllary Clinton at the time advocated for a sizable troop presence in Iraq and like Panetta, believed in renegotiating a new SoFA). That they were more interested in fulfilling a campaign promise and wanted nothing better than to wash their hands of Iraq.

In 2013, Iraq began showing concerns of a rising Sunni militancy (in the absence of the U.S. flexing its influence over moderating a sectarian Maliki- plus in 2010 not supporting Iraq election results that saw Maliki lose- Sunnis were once again being alienated) and asked the White House for airstrikes and military aid (Oct 2013). Obama refused. In 2014, Iraq asked again (by this time, Obama already dismissed ISIS as a JV team in January) and was once again denied. Then by mid-June, the al Muthanna chemical weapons factory was seized by ISIS; and cities began to fall. Finally, the johnny-come-lately risk-averse, slow-deliberating (re: dithering) president sends some troops back into Iraq in advisory/training roles along with some airstrikes.

Iraq was fragile but stabilized in 2009 (re: Troop Surge which Senator Obama opposed and Sunni Awakening). AQI decimated there. Biden called Iraq possibly the Obama Administration’s “greatest achievement” in 2010.

WaPo’s Pinnochio test conclusion in regards to Biden’s 2020 campaign rhetoric:

Biden had a big hand in withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq during Obama’s first term. It was a sensitive role and one Biden relished, by many accounts. But he was still the vice president during Obama’s second term, when thousands of U.S. troops returned to the country. It’s puzzling to see him leave that out of his remarks on the campaign trail and in the debate.

The Biden camp argues that these are two very different conflicts and that the troop levels were much higher pre-2011 and much lower post-2014. However, as top Obama administration officials have said in public, the two conflicts are inextricably linked. The Islamic State gained a foothold in Iraq in large part because U.S. forces had withdrawn.

Biden told half the story, so he gets Two Pinocchios.

 

A few previously related posts:

The Truth About the Status of Forces Agreement

obama is SOFA king dishonest about Iraq and the rest of the Middle East

AP bimbo writers give Obama credit for Bush/Iraq SOFA

The Lie that George W. Bush/U.S. Created ISIS

Hillary and Obama Led Us To Defeat In Iraq

The Left & Their Conspiracies About Iraq

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