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Foreign Policy Experts Urge President Obama to Reconsider Troop Drawdown in Iraq

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Forty-one foreign policy experts and former U.S. government officials signed an open letter today urging President Obama to ensure that a significant U.S. military presence remains in Iraq after 2011 to assist the Iraqi government.

The letter responds to recent news reports that the White House may be seeking to keep in Iraq a post-2011 residual force of 4,000 or fewer U.S. troops. In the letter, the group cautioned: “This number is significantly smaller than what U.S. military commanders on the ground have reportedly recommended and would limit our ability to ensure that Iraq remains stable and free from significant foreign influence in the years to come.”

The letter warns that Iran is working to increase its influence in Iraq not only by supporting certain Iraqi political factions, but also by funding and arming proxy groups that are attacking U.S. and Iraqi troops.

“Maintaining a robust American presence in-country would blunt these efforts, and help ensure Iraq remains oriented away from Iran and a long-term ally of the United States,” the group counseled. “Failure to leave a significant U.S. military presence in Iraq will leave the country more vulnerable to internal and external threats, thus imperiling the hard-fought gains in security and governance made in recent years at significant cost to the United States.”

American and Iraqi officials are currently negotiating a new so-called “security agreement” that would permit U.S. forces to remain in the country after the current agreement expires at the end of this year.

The full text of the letter and signatories can be found below as well as on the Foreign Policy Initiative website.
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear President Obama:

The United States has invested significant resources in Iraq over the last eight years. Under your leadership and that of your predecessor, America has helped Iraq’s fledgling democracy emerge as a symbol to other peoples of the region, becoming, in the words of former Secretary of Defense Gates, “a multi-sectarian, multi-ethnic society in the Arab world that shows that democracy can work.”

We are thus gravely concerned about recent news reports suggesting that the White House is considering leaving only a residual force of 4,000 or fewer U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of this year. This number is significantly smaller than what U.S. military commanders on the ground have reportedly recommended and would limit our ability to ensure that Iraq remains stable and free from significant foreign influence in the years to come.

While the Iraqi Security Forces have become increasingly capable of defending Iraq against internal threats, they are not yet able to defend Iraq from external forces. As a result, Iraq’s troops will require after the end of this year continued U.S. assistance in combined-arms training, border protection, air and naval capabilities, logistics, and intelligence. It is also essential that we maintain a significant military presence at multiple places along Iraq’s disputed internal boundaries to allow the United States to assist Kurds and Arabs in the disputed zones with confidence-building.

In recent months, Iran has increased its attempts to expand its influence in Iraq, including through the killing of American forces and support to Iraqi political parties. Maintaining a robust American presence in-country would blunt these efforts, and help ensure Iraq remains oriented away from Iran and a long-term ally of the United States.

We therefore urge you to ensure that an adequate number of U.S. troops in Iraq remain after 2011. We were encouraged by your pragmatism in 2009 as you showed flexibility in the pace of America’s drawdown. We believe that the same pragmatism would counsel a significantly larger force than 4,000 U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of this year.

Failure to leave a significant U.S. military presence in Iraq will leave the country more vulnerable to internal and external threats, thus imperiling the hard-fought gains in security and governance made in recent years at significant cost to the United States. A successful, democratic Iraq will remain a model for other emerging Arab democracies and one day, its neighbor, Iran. However, a failing state in the heart of the Middle East would destabilize the region, empower Iran, and make vain more than eight years of efforts by the United States in Iraq.

You have fulfilled your campaign commitment to the nation to end the war in Iraq. Now, we request that you ensure that in doing so, we do not lose the peace.

Sincerely,

Gary Bauer Ash Jain Danielle Pletka
Max Boot Kenneth Jensen John Podhoretz
Ellen Bork Frederick Kagan Karl Rove
Paul Bremer Robert Kagan Kori Schake
Norm Coleman Kimberly Kagan Randy Scheunemann
Seth Cropsey Lawrence Kaplan Gary Schmitt
Thomas Donnelly William Kristol Dan Senor
Colin Dueck Tod Lindberg Michael Singh
Eric Edelman Herbert London Marisa Cochrane Sullivan
Jamie Fly Michael Makovsky Marc Thiessen
Reuel Marc Gerecht Cliff May Daniel Twining
Abe Greenwald Joshua Muravchik Peter Wehner
John Hannah Andrew Natsios Kenneth Weinstein
Bruce Pitcairn Jackson Michael O'Hanlon

Artilce by Foreign Policy Institute