White House Disputes Charge of 'Telegraphing' Iraq War's Exit Strategy to Enemies

Two of the top national security advisers for the President and Vice President insisted to HUMAN EVENTS that the Obama administration’s sudden announcement Friday of a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year was not a case of telegraphing a message to possible enemies of the Maliki regime in Baghdad.

Denis McDonough, deputy national security adviser to President Obama, and Tony Blinken, Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, briefed reporters at the White House on Friday immediately following the President’s surprise appearance to proclaim that the remaining troops would be coming home from Iraq by December.

“After nearly nine years,” Obama said, “America’s war in Iraq will be over.”

Citing harsh criticism of the administration for releasing the number of troops coming back from Iraq and the date of their return, HUMAN EVENTS asked McDonough and Blinken what they thought about charges that this was “almost like telegraphing a message to possible enemies of the regime.”

“Well, I’ll try it first,” replied McDonough.  “The security agreements negotiated and signed in 2008 by the Bush administration stipulated this date of Dec. 31, 2008, as the end of the military presence.  So that has been in law now for—or been enforced now for several years.

“So it’s difficult to rebut the proposition that this was a known date.  By the same token, I think that individual decisions that our troops and our commanders are making are informed by their assessments as it relates to individual movements and security related therewith.  And we feel very good, and, frankly, very appreciative of their efforts in that regard.”

Blinken added, “Other dates were well-known in advance.  It was well-known that we were going to be out of Iraq cities in the summer of 2009, and again, security improved.  It didn’t get worse.  It was well-known that we were going to change our mission in the summer of 2010, and the combat mission—move to an advise-and-assist mission—and get down to 50,000 troops.  Again, security continued to improve.  It didn’t get worse.

“And there’s something very important about the United States keeping its commitments.  That sends a very strong and powerful message throughout the region—in Iraq as well as countries outside Iraq.  And that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

The point made by the national security team that the withdrawal dates were set under the Bush administration was underscored later in the session by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.  Asked whether the President had any plans to talk to former President George W. Bush about the decision on withdrawing from Iraq, Carney replied:  “As you know, the President saw former President Bush—George W. Bush—on 9/11.  To the point I think that was made earlier, I think in answer to a question from HUMAN EVENTS, the announcement the President made today is in fulfillment of an agreement that was signed by President Bush to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.  But I’m not aware of any conversation that’s planned.”