Iraq Concerned U.S. May Leave Too Soon

In an ironic twist, senior Iraqi officials are now publically fretting over the possibility that U.S. troops will be pulled out too soon.

Iraq Concerned U.S. May Leave Too Soon (AP)

Iraq’s foreign minister said he’s concerned the United States may pull out of the country before the army and police are ready to take responsibility for the nation’s security. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari meets with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley on Thursday, and his wide-ranging agenda includes “the continued engagement” of the United States in Iraq. The Iraqi minister came to New York to urge the U.N. Security Council to extend the mandate of the U.S.-led multinational force, saying Iraqi troops and police cannot yet defend the country against an armed insurgency by remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime and some foreigners.

The council responded positively, issuing a statement Tuesday extending the mandate and saying it looks forward to Iraqi security forces playing a greater role and ultimately assuming responsibility for the country’s national security. Acting U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson, speaking on behalf of the multinational force, told the council it won’t remain in Iraq any longer than necessary. But if Iraqi authorities want the force to stay, it shouldn’t leave “until the Iraqis can meet the serious security challenges they face,” she said.

Even though Zebari repeated numerous times in his speech to the council that Iraq still can’t survive on its own and needs help, the foreign minister said Iraq isn’t certain Washington will stay engaged. “I am concerned — I am concerned,” Zebari said in an interview at the United Nations late Tuesday. “I’m a realist, OK, and we’ve seen that before. We need to complete this mission with their help. We are getting very close. The riding is getting tougher.” But he said, “we are confident that we will make it.”

There’s a lot of pressure, both in Iraq and at home, to get U.S. troops out as soon as possible. Further, once Iraqi forces are sufficiently trained, there may come a point where the presence of Americans becomes hard to justify strategically, since they currently create part of the security problem they’re working to solve. So far, though, I’ve seen no indication that the Bush Administration has lost its resolve to stay until the mission is complete.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. legion says:

    Any date people put out right now, including the “early 09” smoke Cheney is blowing now, is pulled directly out of the ‘ol Anal Randomizer. We can’t leave until things are stable, and nobody has the slightest idea when that will be.

    The only thing we can do is spot the goalposts… It’s become painfully apparent ove the last few years that the peace cannot, in fact, be secured by the US with the number of troops we’ve pout in Iraq. So to stabilize the country, we have to either put commit more troops for an unspecified time (not bloody likely) or make damn sure the Iraqis are capable of doing it themselves.

    The bad news is that with all the smoke & mirrors & propagande from both the right & the left, I don’t think anyone has a realistic idea of when that will be…

  2. nycrepub says:

    Agreed. Remember that even when we set a date to turn the country over to a provisional government we sped up the date to avoid armed conflict on the proposed date. Everytime a timetable is set in the mideast, it is an invitation for the terrorists to ramp up their violence. Every time Sharon meets with a Palestinian Arab “leader” Hamas or one of the other savage islamofascist groups strikes. Better to get the actions on the ground in place and then remove forces then to set a schedule that may not be accurately enforceable. Who would have thought that 7 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a country that never experienced anything but an absolute monarchy would have democracy firmly in place. You just can’t put a timeline on democracy. You just need to push forward, face the obstacles, fight fire with fire, never retreat, never regret why you are there, and it will be self-evident to liberty-seeking Iraqis when they can appropriately self-govern and protect their own security without international help.