Today, President Obama sent an e-mail taking credit for the drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq this month. In the e-mail, the President states, “Shortly after taking office, I put forward a plan to end the war in Iraq responsibly. Today, I'm pleased to report that -- thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians in Iraq -- our combat mission will end this month, and we will complete a substantial drawdown of our troops. … And, consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all of our troops will be out of Iraq by the end of next year.” Today’s e-mail follows on a statement made last month by Vice President Joe Biden claiming that Iraq would be viewed as a success for President Obama.
However, while the White House may attempt to claim credit for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, which began under the previous administration, the fact is that this month’s transition was only made possible by implementing a strategy that President Obama and Vice President Biden adamantly opposed.
In early 2007, when the situation in Iraq was arguably at its most grim, a plan was put forth that represented the last chance to create a secure and stable environment for an Iraqi government to form. At that time, President Obama said that “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” Vice President Biden shared that view, saying, “The president's surge is not a solution, it's a tragic mistake, and I will do everything in my power to stop it.”
Well aware of the risk of alienating a skeptical and war-weary public, Members of Congress faced a difficult choice. After a lengthy and heated debate, Republicans stood on principle and supported the plan, recognizing that the alternative – a premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq – would only leave that country in the hands of terrorists who would use it to plan and launch attacks against the United States.
Gen. David Petraeus, and the brave men and women under his command, implemented the new strategy brilliantly. And, after three and a half years, their service and their sacrifice has fostered substantial progress in Iraq. While this week’s events demonstrate that there is still much difficult work ahead, it is undeniable that Iraq would not be where it is today if Democrats, including President Obama and Vice President Biden, had been able to stop the surge from being implemented.
As the Obama Administration continues the drawdown of U.S. troops this month, as required by the status of forces agreement signed under the previous administration, it is imperative that the United States maintain a close partnership with a democratic Iraq – a nation central to our vital and strategic security interests in the region.
It is also important that we take time to reflect on the sacrifices that our brave men and women in uniform have made, and continue to make, in Iraq and Afghanistan. We thank them, and the loved ones that have sacrificed so much in supporting them in their mission.