The president who spent years touting the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq suddenly has had to distance himself from that action.
At the White House on Saturday morning — less than 48 hours after authorizing airstrikes against Islamist militants and humanitarian air drops to save the lives of trapped Iraqi civilians — President Obama blamed his predecessor, George W. Bush, for the absence of American troops in Iraq and rejected the assertion that he could have left a small peacekeeping force in the war-torn nation.
He uttered those after three years, and a successful re-election campaign, in which the full removal of U.S. forces from Iraq was cast as this White House’s most significant foreign policy achievement and one Mr. Obama had promised all the way back to the earliest days of his first presidential campaign in 2008.
Now, however, with the terrorist force the Islamic State running roughshod through Iraq, capturing key territory, slaughtering Christians and promising to “raise the flag of Allah at the White House,” Mr. Obama has begun to adjust the narrative.
“What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision. Under the previous administration, we had turned over the country to a sovereign, democratically elected Iraqi government,” Mr. Obama told reporters just before leaving for a two-week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. “So let’s just be clear: The reason that we did not have a follow-on force in Iraq was because the Iraqis — 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. So that entire analysis is bogus and is wrong. But it gets frequently peddled around here by folks who oftentimes are trying to defend previous policies that they themselves made.”
Mr. Obama’s new take on the 2011 troop withdrawal quickly came under fire from a number of political pundits who pointed out the irony of a president moving away, at least in part, from his signature foreign policy achievement.
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