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Fox: Administration Has Settled on 3,000 Troops in Iraq Past 2011 Withdrawal Date

Army Nat'l. Guard trains Iraqi in al Anbar in 2009. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Liesl Marelli)

Fox News has an ignorant story today on their website. I’m thinking this won’t particularly surprise you. But here’s something surprising: it’s an ignorant story with news value!

The Obama administration has decided to drop the number of U.S. troops in Iraq at the end of the year down to 3,000, marking a major downgrade in force strength, multiple sources familiar with the inner workings and decisions on U.S. troop movements in Iraq told Fox News.

Senior commanders are said to be livid at the decision, which has already been signed off by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

OK, let’s dispense with the ignorant part. Fox News spins this as a drop in troops. But it’s an INCREASE relative to current laws and schedules. Fox didn’t bother to point out that there’s a standing status of forces agreement in place with Iraq that stipulates that all US troops will leave that country by the end of the year. The President has referenced this publicly on numerous occasions. It’s something that George W. Bush signed in 2008. Any deviation at all from this would represent a boost from the troops that would otherwise be there.

Negotiations have been ongoing between the Iraqi Parliament and US officials on the post-2011 presence in Iraq. The Prime Minister has said all troops would leave on schedule, but added a little asterisk for “trainers.” The White House and the military have been adamant that they would have to be asked for a troop extension by the Iraqis to go beyond the end of the year, so this would cement the fact that only trainers would remain in Iraq after 2011. But what are “trainers,” really? If it’s US military personnel, they will be equipped with guns and likely to go out on raids.

But let’s get to the news value here. According to the Fox report, the military wanted to keep a whopping 27,000 troops in Iraq past the 2011 cutoff date, and then they “settled” for 10,000. So they are livid that the mission has been downgraded to training only.  [cont’d.]

This means that the military essentially blew off a signed binational agreement, expected it to be dismissed and that they could have their forever war go on as long as they like. The Administration is resisting that, but only halfway. They too don’t want to end the forever war, so they’re half-stepping by extending the military presence but with only 3,000 troops. Now here I’d agree with the military: there’s nothing that 3,000 troops can really do in a country as large as Iraq. If I thought the mission would actually be limited to training that would be something, but it’s unlikely. And further, there would be a big old target on their backs by virtue of the Sadrists resisting any continued US presence. The revelation of a past slaughter and coverup from 2006 put out by Wikileaks endangers them even more.

Thus, the solution is to end the US presence entirely, not to throw a few thousand troops into a very dangerous potential conflagration for little national security purpose.

More news value:

This shift is seen by various people as a cost-saving measure and a political measure. The only administration official fighting for at least 10,000 forces to stay in Iraq at the end of the year was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, sources said. But she has lost the battle.

Responding to the news, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who has traveled to Iraq many times, said that in all the conversations he has had on force strength, he has “never heard a number as low as 3,000 troops to secure the gains Iraqis have won over the years.”

There’s nothing the US can secure for the Iraqis. They have to secure it for themselves. Just parking in a Muslim country forever is a terrible strategy and it has nothing to do with making us safer.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Fox: Administration Has Settled on 3,000 Troops in Iraq Past 2011 Withdrawal Date

Fox News has an ignorant story today on their website. I’m thinking this won’t particularly surprise you. But here’s something surprising: it’s an ignorant story with news value!

The Obama administration has decided to drop the number of U.S. troops in Iraq at the end of the year down to 3,000, marking a major downgrade in force strength, multiple sources familiar with the inner workings and decisions on U.S. troop movements in Iraq told Fox News.

Senior commanders are said to be livid at the decision, which has already been signed off by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

OK, let’s dispense with the ignorant part. Fox News spins this as a drop in troops. But it’s an INCREASE relative to current laws and schedules. Fox didn’t bother to point out that there’s a standing status of forces agreement in place with Iraq that stipulates that all US troops will leave that country by the end of the year. The President has referenced this publicly on numerous occasions. It’s something that George W. Bush signed in 2008. Any deviation at all from this would represent a boost from the troops that would otherwise be there.

Negotiations have been ongoing between the Iraqi Parliament and US officials on the post-2011 presence in Iraq. The Prime Minister has said all troops would leave on schedule, but added a little asterisk for “trainers.” The White House and the military have been adamant that they would have to be asked for a troop extension by the Iraqis to go beyond the end of the year, so this would cement the fact that only trainers would remain in Iraq after 2011. But what are “trainers,” really? If it’s US military personnel, they will be equipped with guns and likely to go out on raids.

But let’s get to the news value here. According to the Fox report, the military wanted to keep a whopping 27,000 troops in Iraq past the 2011 cutoff date, and then they “settled” for 10,000. So they are livid that the mission has been downgraded to training only.

This means that the military essentially blew off a signed binational agreement, expected it to be dismissed and that they could have their forever war go on as long as they like. The Administration is resisting that, but only halfway. They too don’t want to end the forever war, so they’re half-stepping by extending the military presence but with only 3,000 troops. Now here I’d agree with the military: there’s nothing that 3,000 troops can really do in a country as large as Iraq. If I thought the mission would actually be limited to training that would be something, but it’s unlikely. And further, there would be a big old target on their backs by virtue of the Sadrists resisting any continued US presence. The revelation of a past slaughter and coverup from 2006 put out by Wikileaks endangers them even more.

Thus, the solution is to end the US presence entirely, not to throw a few thousand troops into a very dangerous potential conflagration for little national security purpose.

More news value:

This shift is seen by various people as a cost-saving measure and a political measure. The only administration official fighting for at least 10,000 forces to stay in Iraq at the end of the year was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, sources said. But she has lost the battle.

Responding to the news, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who has traveled to Iraq many times, said that in all the conversations he has had on force strength, he has “never heard a number as low as 3,000 troops to secure the gains Iraqis have won over the years.”

There’s nothing the US can secure for the Iraqis. They have to secure it for themselves. Just parking in a Muslim country forever is a terrible strategy and it has nothing to do with making us safer.

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David Dayen

David Dayen