The same week that President Obama broke one major campaign promise, he reminds his base about a previous one he reneged on. Though the president pledged to end the war in Iraq within 16 months of taking office, 47,000 troops still remain in the country, and many will likely stay past the Dec. 31, 2011 final withdrawal date:
“We are willing to have a presence beyond (2011), but we’ve got a lot of commitments,” [Defense Secretary Robert Gates] said…
“So if folks here are going to want us to have a presence, we’re going to need to get on with it pretty quickly in terms of our planning,” he added. “I think there is interest in having a continuing presence. The politics are such that we’ll just have to wait and see because the initiative ultimately has to come from the Iraqis.”
There’s no doubt that the Iraqis want U.S. troops to stay, especially in places like Kirkuk with high ethnic tensions. But more than that, they need the troops to stay. The Iraqi military has purchased American equipment that entails U.S. training and maintenance assistance – and some of that equipment won’t even be delivered until past the withdrawal deadline.