The Obama reelection campaign is wasting no time crowing about the announced withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year. Obama adviser James Kvall said this was “an example of what happens when a leader sets a plan and sees it through.” Mr. Obama said that the withdrawal was taking place “as promised.”
Really? During the 2008 campaign Mr. Obama wrote a commentary in the New York Times in which he proposed a withdrawal timeline with all troops out by the summer of 2010. “As I’ve said many times,” he wrote, “we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began.”
But that promised timeline went by the wayside, and the plan Mr. Obama executed was not his own but George W. Bush’s. The timeline for troop withdrawal by the end of 2011 was established in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that the U.S. and Iraq agreed to in November 2008, before Mr. Obama took office.
If the administration had its way U.S. troops would remain in Iraq. The White House had pressed Baghdad to allow about six thousand American troops to stay in the country for training, intelligence and air support missions. But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pushed back against U.S. negotiators and demanded that the original timeline be honored. Mr. Obama got none of the things he was negotiating for. It was a complete diplomatic failure.
So not only did Mr. Obama break his 2008 promise, he wanted to stay in Iraq even longer than the timeline set by the Bush administration. In that respect the pullout truly is an example of Mr. Obama’s leadership — weak, vacillating, and ineffective.