In Wednesday's Washington Post it was a threefer slam on Obama's plan for withdrawal from Iraq. First, Dan Balz informs readers that Obama's plan for withdrawal was opposed by General Petraeus in their meetings. After years of Democrats insisting we must "listen to the generals" it seems Obama may not have been so eager to hear what Petraeus had to say.
But it gets better than that. For readers who make it all the way to the editorial page (unfortunately, this leaves out most of Obama's voters) it's a double slam. Starting with the editorial which repeats the Petraeus concerns and goes further:
Mr. Obama in IraqObama stated in Iraq that the 16 month withdrawal timeline, which is sacrosanct to his core followers, might indeed be adjusted.... once the election is over and Obama wins.
Did he really find support for his withdrawal plan?
Wednesday, July 23, 2008; Page A14
THE INITIAL MEDIA coverage of Barack Obama's visit to Iraq suggested that the Democratic candidate found agreement with his plan to withdraw all U.S. combat forces on a 16-month timetable. So it seems worthwhile to point out that, by Mr. Obama's own account, neither U.S. commanders nor Iraq's principal political leaders actually support his strategy.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has a history of tailoring his public statements for political purposes, made headlines by saying he would support a withdrawal of American forces by 2010. But an Iraqi government statement made clear that Mr. Maliki's timetable would extend at least seven months beyond Mr. Obama's. More significant, it would be "a timetable which Iraqis set" -- not the Washington-imposed schedule that Mr. Obama has in mind. It would also be conditioned on the readiness of Iraqi forces, the same linkage that Gen. Petraeus seeks. As Mr. Obama put it, Mr. Maliki "wants some flexibility in terms of how that's carried out."
Other Iraqi leaders were more directly critical. As Mr. Obama acknowledged, Sunni leaders in Anbar province told him that American troops are essential to maintaining the peace among Iraq's rival sects and said they were worried about a rapid drawdown.
The Post editorial continues
[Obama] denied being "so rigid and stubborn that I ignore anything that happens during the course of the 16 months," though this would be more reassuring if Mr. Obama were not rigidly and stubbornly maintaining his opposition to the successful "surge" of the past 16 months. He also pointed out that he had "deliberately avoided providing a particular number" for the residual force of Americans he says would be left behind.And to complete the Post's triple Obama whack, Max Boot, from the Council on Foreign Relations and a foreign policy adviser to Sen. John McCain's campaign adds this:
Yet Mr. Obama's account of his strategic vision remains eccentric. He insists that Afghanistan is "the central front" for the United States, along with the border areas of Pakistan. But there are no known al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, and any additional U.S. forces sent there would not be able to operate in the Pakistani territories where Osama bin Laden is headquartered. While the United States has an interest in preventing the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban, the country's strategic importance pales beside that of Iraq, which lies at the geopolitical center of the Middle East and contains some of the world's largest oil reserves. If Mr. Obama's antiwar stance has blinded him to those realities, that could prove far more debilitating to him as president than any particular timetable.
Behind Maliki's GamesYes, isn't it funny that after years of referring to Maliki as Bush's "puppet" the left all of a sudden embraces him when they falsely think he has endorsed Obama's plan for
By Max Boot
Wednesday, July 23, 2008; Page A15
There is some irony in the fact that Democrats, after years of deriding Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as a hopeless bungler and conniving Shiite sectarian, are now treating as sacrosanct his suggestion that Iraq will be ready to assume responsibility for its own security by 2010. Naturally this is because his position seems to support that of Barack Obama.
A little skepticism is in order here. The prime minister has political motives for what he's saying -- whatever that is.
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 could leave.
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."
President 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.
But 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 2018.
What would happen if we were to pull out much faster, on a 16-month timetable? Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Hammond, commander of coalition forces in Baghdad, says that would be "very dangerous" -- the same words used by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Of course, if the Iraqi government tells us to leave, we will have to leave. But, the prime minister's ambiguous comments notwithstanding, the Iraqi government is saying no such thing, because most Iraqis realize that the gains of the surge are fragile and could be undone by a too-rapid departure of U.S. forces.
It reminds me of what happened when military units were training for Bill Clinton's first inauguration. While U.S. Air Force jets did a rehearsal flyover, one new Clinton aide complained that the military was trying to horn in on their celebration. Another aide corrected her saying "those are OUR jets now."
Well, Obama hasn't been elected and Maliki isn't their puppet! Ever heard of the saying: Don't count your chickens before they are hatched?