Key general: Iraq pullout plan a ‘disaster’

Others echo call for strength against Iran

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President Obama’s decision to pull all U.S. forces out of Iraq by Dec. 31 is an “absolute disaster” that puts the burgeoning Arab democracy at risk of an Iranian “strangling,” said an architect of the 2007 troop surge that turned around a losing war.

Retired Army Gen. John M. Keane was at the forefront of persuading President George W. Bush to scuttle a static counterinsurgency strategy and replace it with 30,000 reinforcements and a more activist, street-by-street counterterrorism tactic.

Today, even with that strategy producing a huge drop in daily attacks, Gen. Keane bluntly told The Washington Times that the United States again is losing.

“I think it’s an absolute disaster,” said Gen. Keane, who advised Gen. David H. Petraeus when he was top Iraq commander. “We won the war in Iraq, and we’re now losing the peace.”

U.S. troops will be vacating Iraq at a time when neither Baghdad’s counterterrorism skills nor its abilities to protect against invasion are at levels needed to fully protect the country, say analysts long involved in the nearly nine-year war.

Family and comrades grieve during the funeral procession for an Iraqi traffic policeman Ali Hameed in Baghdad on Oct. 24, 2011. Police said gunmen in a speeding car attacked a traffic police checkpoint in the center of the Iraqi capital early that morning, killing two policemen and two civilians. (Associated Press)

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Family and comrades grieve during the funeral procession for an Iraqi traffic ... more >

“Forty-four hundred lives lost,” Gen. Keane said. “Tens of thousands of troops wounded. Over a couple hundred thousand Iraqis killed. We liberated 25 million people. There is only one Arab Muslim country that elects its own government, and that is Iraq.

“We should be staying there to strengthen that democracy, to let them get the kind of political gains they need to get and keep the Iranians away from strangling that country. That should be our objective, and we are walking away from that objective.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday warned Iran not to miscalculate the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops.

“No one, most particularly Iran, should miscalculate about our continuing commitment to and with the Iraqis going forward,” she said in an interview with CNN from Uzbekistan.

“In addition to a very significant diplomatic presence in Iraq which will carry much of the responsibility for dealing with an independent, sovereign, democratic Iraq, we have bases in neighboring countries, we have our ally in Turkey. We have a lot of presence in that region,” she added.

Leading Republicans shared Gen. Keane’s criticism of the withdrawal.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona called the move “a serious mistake.”

“I’m very, very concerned about increased Iranian influence in Iraq,” Mr. McCain, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told ABC’s “This Week.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said Mr. Obama made a dangerous decision that ignored U.S. military recommendations to keep some troops in Iraq next year.

Smaller troop deployment

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