Washington's Reaction to Obama's Iraq AnnouncementBy National Journal staff | Friday, October 21, 2011 | 2:10 p.m.
Below are reactions from politicians to President Obama's announcement on Friday afternoon that "America's war in Iraq is over."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
I fully support the president.… I think we are well equipped as we are keeping a real close eye on Iran. Iran is the country in that part of the world that is way behind the times. It’s a country that’s made up of a lot of people. And they should be aware that the [Arab] Spring that hit countries around them will also hit them.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio
The continued drawdown of American troops that began under the previous administration wouldn’t be possible if not for the hard work and sacrifice of our service members, diplomats and their families.... American forces not only freed Iraq from a vicious tyrant, but – under the strategy developed and implemented by our generals, and the leadership of both President Bush and President Obama – ended a violent terrorist insurgency that threatened the Iraqi people, and provided an opportunity for the Iraqi government to build the capacity needed to effectively meet the needs of the country.... We must never forget the sacrifice of those who’ve served and all who will soon be making the journey home. And we owe it to them to continue engaging with the Iraqi government in a way that ensures our hard-fought gains translate into long-term success. While I’m concerned that a full withdrawal could jeopardize those gains, I’m hopeful that both countries will work together to guarantee that a free and democratic Iraq remains a strong and stable partner for the United States in the Middle East.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif.
Over a million Americans and their Iraqi partners can be proud of what we have achieved since 2003.... Much remains to be done and America’s commitment to Iraqi stability, security, and freedom endures. I hope that Iraq will always look to the United States as a partner in that freedom as they travel the challenging road ahead.... I remain concerned that this full withdrawal of U.S. forces will make that road tougher than it needs to be. Multiple experts have testified before my committee that the Iraqis still lack important capacities in their ability to maintain their internal stability and territorial integrity. These shortcomings could reverse the decade of hard work and sacrifice both countries have endured to build a free Iraq.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
I respectfully disagree with President Obama. I feel all we have worked for, fought for, and sacrificed for is very much in jeopardy by today’s announcement. I hope I am wrong and the president is right, but I fear this decision has set in motion events that will come back to haunt our country.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
Today’s announcement effectively implements U.S. policy to end our troop presence in Iraq by the end of this year, policy established under President Bush in consultation with Iraq’s government. While the United States will continue to have an important relationship with Iraq, that nation’s fate rests with its own people and its government, as it should.... I was prepared to support a continued presence of U.S. trainers in Iraq beyond the end of this year. But in light of Iraq’s refusal to eliminate the possibility that U.S. troops would face prosecutions in Iraqi courts, President Obama has made the right decision.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney
President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.
GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman
[W]e should take a moment to reflect on the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform. We are forever grateful for their service to America, and are eager to welcome our troops home.... President Obama’s decision, however, to not leave a small, focused presence in Iraq is a mistake and the product of his administration’s failures. The president's inability to reach a security agreement leaves Iraq vulnerable to backsliding, thus putting our interests in the region at risk. An ideal arrangement would have left a small troop presence that could have assisted with the training of Iraqi security forces and vital counter-terror efforts.
GOP presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry
I'm deeply concerned that President Obama is putting political expediency ahead of sound military and security judgment by announcing an end to troop level negotiations and a withdrawal from Iraq by year's end. The President was slow to engage the Iraqis and there's little evidence today's decision is based on advice from military commanders. ... America's commitment to the future of Iraq is important to U.S. national security interests and should not be influenced by politics. Despite the great achievements of the U.S. military and the Iraqi people, there remain real threats to our shared interests, especially from Iran.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
We’ve seen a pattern of this administration ignoring the advice of our military commanders. We saw it in Afghanistan with the withdrawal of the remainder of the surge troops in the middle of the fighting season and now we’re seeing it in Iraq. I have serious concerns that this was a political decision that essentially ignored the advice of military commanders on the ground and the concerns I’ve heard from top Pentagon officials. We all want our troops to come home as soon as possible, but we can’t allow that worthy goal to risk the security gains we’ve made. Secretary Panetta and Admiral Mullen have testified that gaps remain in Iraqis’ ability to secure their country. Unfortunately, Iran, which has undermined Iraqi security and wants us to leave so they can assert control, must be cheering over this decision. And dangerous Kurdish-Arab tensions persist in the northern part of the country.
A stable Iraq that is an American ally remains absolutely critical to our national security interests, and a rush to the exits in Iraq threatens the progress that has been made at such tremendous cost. I have significant doubts that civilians in the State Department are going to be able to fill the gap left by the military’s departure. We should not be building a civilian army with our State Department, and the 14,000 contractors that State will oversee represent just that.
GOP Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum
I realize how long this conflict has affected our nation and our people - and it's always welcome news that our troops are coming home.
However, I have deep concerns about the conditions left behind. My long time concern about Iran's growing influence in Iraq is coming to fruition and that ultimately hurts America and our allies. Iran's influence and the potential creation of an Iranian puppet state in Iraq will have disastrous consequences in the Middle East and around the globe. We must begin to do what this Administration is unwilling to do - address the real problem that is Iran - a growing global threat whose desire is to create a nuclear weapon. Our security and the security of American allies like Israel depend keeping Iran from developing such weapons.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
The United States and Iraq affirmed today that the U.S. will fulfill its commitments under the current U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement and withdraw all of our military forces by the end of 2011.
Today's announcement means that at the end of this year, there will be a clear end to the U.S. combat presence in Iraq. I wanted to take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude and appreciation to our men and women in uniform who have served in Iraq since 2003. Our troops and their families have borne a heavy burden during more than eight years of war, and paid a great price. Yet it is a testament to their strength and resilience that we are now able to bring this war to a responsible end. Thanks to their service and sacrifice, Iraq is ready to govern and defend itself and to contribute to security and stability in a vital part of the world.
We will now turn our full attention to pursuing a long-term strategic partnership with Iraq based on mutual interests and mutual respect. Our goal will be to establish a normal relationship similar to others in the region that focuses on meeting security and training needs. Iraq is a sovereign nation that must determine how to secure its own future. Going forward, we will work closely with the Iraqi government and their armed forces to help them continue to build a stronger and more prosperous country.