After spending the afternoon moping around in disgust and
fear over Barack Obama’s comments at a press conference in the Middle East, I
finally found some consolation. The Washington Post’s Max Boot provides an
excellent analysis of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s supposed “support”
of Obama’s 16 month timetable for withdrawal of troops from the country.
In the same way Obama deftly sidesteps the issues on which
he is clearly wrong, like the troop surge being responsible for restoring order
Boot suggests that Maliki’s statement is simply a political one, not a correct
Keep in mind also that Maliki has no military experience
and that he has been trapped in the Green
Zone, relatively isolated from day-to-day life. For these reasons, he has
been a consistent font of misguided predictions about how quickly U.S. forces
In May 2006, shortly after becoming prime minister, he
claimed, “Our forces are capable of taking over the security in all Iraqi
provinces within a year and a half.”
In October 2006, when violence was spinning out of
control, Maliki declared that it would be “only a matter of months”
before his security forces could “take over the security portfolio
entirely and keep some multinational forces only in a supporting role.”
Bush wisely ignored Maliki. Instead of withdrawing U.S. troops, he
sent more. The prime minister wasn’t happy. On Dec. 15, 2006, the Wall
Street Journal reported, “Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has
flatly told Gen. George
Casey, the top American
military commander in Iraq, that he doesn’t want more U.S. personnel
deployed to the country, according to U.S. military officials.” When the
surge went ahead anyway, Maliki gave it an endorsement described in news
accounts as “lukewarm.”
In January 2007, with the surge just starting, Maliki
predicted “that within three to six months our need for the American
troops will dramatically go down.” In April 2007, when most of Baghdad was still out of
control, the prime minister said that Iraqi forces would assume control of
security in every province by the end of the year.
Even now, when the success of the surge is undeniable,
Maliki won’t give U.S.
troops their due. In the famous interview with Der
Spiegel last weekend, he was asked why Iraq has become more peaceful. He
mentioned “many factors,” including “the political rapprochement
we have managed to achieve,” “the progress being made by our security
forces,” “the deep sense of abhorrence with which the population has
reacted to the atrocities of al-Qaida and the militias,” and “the economic recovery.” No mention of
Somebody sounds a lot like Obama, doesn’t he? It gets
Maliki’s public utterances do not
provide a reliable guide as to when it will be safe to pull out U.S. troops.
Better to listen to the military professionals. The Post recently quoted Brig.
Gen. Bilal al-Dayni, commander of Iraqi troops in Basra, as saying of the Americans, “We
hope they will stay until 2020.” That is similar to the expectation of Iraq’s
defense minister, Abdul Qadir, who says his forces cannot assume full
responsibility for internal security until 2012 and for external security until
The fact is, other than Maliki’s brazen, outspoken comments
about withdrawal of American troops by 2010, most Iraqi’s release that certain
factors have to met, especially a confidence in Iraqi police and military
forces to protect the country and its people.
Obama would never concede this.
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