Understanding Obama and Iraq
After about a year of negotiations, a status of forces agreement between the Iraqis and the Americans was agreed upon in October of 2008 and signed in November of that year. This agreement called for all US to troops to transfer control of Iraqi cities by June 2009, and for all US troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. However, many high ranking officials expected the agreement to be renegotiated before that time.
Rewind back to the 2008 elections. Senator Barack Obama repeatedly asserted that he would call for the end of the war on his first day of office, and that he would withdraw troops at a rate of 1-2 brigades per month and have all troops withdrawn within 16 months. This was not a passing statement nor a general time frame - this was something concretely asserted in his "blueprint for Iraq" and his other campaign literature.
Fast forward to President Obama's speech just days ago at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. While the subject or Iraq was not a priority given the current economic problems, President Obama did assert that the Iraq war showed his leadership and willingness to follow through on promises.
You know, in a world of new threats and new challenges, you can choose leadership that has been tested and proven. Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did.
So, we have President Obama asserting that he fulfilled his promises in Iraq to end the war. We also have an agreement by President Bush to withdraw all troops by the end of 2011. So what actually happened in Iraq?
The graph below shows the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since the start of hostilities in 2001. It also shows hwo the troop levels would have looked had President Obama stuck to his proposed timeline of 1-2 brigades per month and a total withdraw within 16 months.
In reality, President Obama did reduce the number of troops in Iraq, but at a slower pace than that pledged during the campaign. He also stopped removing those troops around September of 2010 when their numbers reached about 50,000 and held the numbers at that level for about a year. The expectation was that the SOFA would be renegotiated and those troops would remain in Iraq - a direct violation of his pledge not to maintain permanent bases in Iraq.
So, after two years of campaiging to remove all troops within 16 months, President Obama took office and promptly forgot that pledge. He removed the troops at a lower rate than pledged and only removed a permanent presence from that country when a SOFA negotiated by President George W Bush required it. Then, days ago he came before the American people and asserted that he ended the war in Iraq as pledged.