President Obama refused to take responsibility for the lack of U.S. troops in Iraq, saying that American soldiers had to pull out due to political pressure from Iraqi leaders.
“This issue keeps on coming up as if this was my decision,” Obama retorted when asked if he had any second thoughts, in light of the terrorist force taking over regions of Iraq, about having pulled all American troops out of the country. “The reason that we did not have a follow-on force in Iraq was because a majority of Iraqis did not want U.S. troops there and politically they could not pass the kind of laws that would be required to protect our troops in Iraq,” he said.
A report in The New Yorker showed how President Obama failed to secure the status of forces agreement necessary to leave the troops in place after 2011.
Dexter Filkins explained:
President Obama, too, was ambivalent about retaining even a small force in Iraq. For several months, American officials told me, they were unable to answer basic questions in meetings with Iraqis – like how many troops they wanted to leave behind – because the administration had not decided. “We got no guidance from the White House,” Jeffrey told me. “We didn’t know where the president was. Maliki kept saying, ‘I don’t know what I have to sell.’ ” At one meeting, Maliki said that he was willing to sign an executive agreement granting the soldiers permission to stay, if he didn’t have to persuade the parliament to accept immunity. The Obama administration quickly rejected the idea. “The American attitude was: Let’s get out of here as quickly as possible,” Sami al-Askari, the Iraqi member of parliament, said.
When Obama announced the withdrawal, he portrayed it as the culmination of his own strategy.
“After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011,” he said. “So today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year.”