Army Chief of Staff Wants to Keep U.S. Combat Troops in Iraq for 10 More Years

July 1, 2009

Andrews_Tom_analysisBy Tom Andrews

Comments on May 27th by Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, that the Pentagon needs to begin planning to leave U.S. combat troops in Iraq for another decade, stand in direct conflict with the current Status of Forces Agreement between our two countries, the stated policy of President Obama and the wishes of an overwhelming majority of American and Iraqi citizens.

Pentagon Must be Held Accountable

Gen. Casey’s statement represents the latest attempt by Pentagon officials to influence policy and subvert President Obama’s commitment to ending the war in Iraq. Rather than contradict the president’s policy, Pentagon planners should be preparing to implement that policy. The President and Congress must act immediately to reassert control of U.S. policy in Iraq if they are to meet their campaign promises and end the war in Iraq.

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This underscores the importance of Congressional action that would hold the Pentagon accountable. The House version of the Supplemental Defense Appropriation passed last month declares support for the president’s policy to remove all U.S. forces from Iraq and directs the Pentagon to present plans to implement that policy. It also directs the Pentagon to provide Congress with regular updates on progress toward implementation of the plans.

It is critical that this language be included in the final bill that is sent to the president’s desk. Meanwhile, it is far past time for the Pentagon to start telling the American people how they plan to support the president and his Iraq policy and not how they plan to undermine it.

History of Insubordination

The Pentagon’s resistance to the president’s policy on Iraq is well documented. In December 2008, Commanding General in Iraq Ray Odierno revealed he intended to keep U.S. combat troops in Iraqi cities past their June 30, 2009 withdrawal deadline, creating a firestorm of protest in the Iraqi Parliament. This April, the New York Times reported that Iraqi officials were being asked to reconsider the definition of “city” to allow combat bases within some Iraqi cities to remain after that deadline.

The Associated Press reported recently that General Odierno “is leading a study to determine how far U.S. forces could be cut back in Iraq and still be effective”. It is not hard to predict what this “study” will conclude under Odierno’s command.

The goal of President Obama’s policy in Iraq is clear — to return control of and responsibility for Iraq to the Iraqi people. Requiring, as General Odierno and the Pentagon would like, that Iraq be free of any violence before U.S. forces are removed only undermines that goal and risks keeping the United States mired in Iraq for years to come. The President is right: It is time to return sovereignty to the Iraqi people, as 80% of the Iraqi population want. It is time for U.S. forces to go.

Washington Post military reporter and best-selling author Tom Ricks reports that there is a “consensus within the military” that U.S. combat operations are only half over in Iraq — that we will have combat troops fighting there in 2015.

President Obama and Congress must not allow that to happen. Φ

Tom Andrews, a former Democratic Congressman from Maine, is National Director of the Win Without War Coalition. Contact: Doug Gordon 202.822.5200.

Photos courtesy of www.just-democracy.org/tom_1.html and www.sourcewatch.org.

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