Hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - Withdrawing from Iraq

Statement

By:  Steve Chabot
Date: Oct. 27, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Chabot expressed his concern with President Obama's announcement of a full troop withdraw from Iraq. In a meeting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee this morning, Congressman Chabot addressed the committee and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling the decision neglectful and irresponsible. President Obama announced Friday that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Congressman Chabot's full statement:

Thank you, Madam Chairman, for calling this important hearing, and I want to welcome Secretary Clinton. Although it is not the express topic of our hearing I would like to say a brief word on Iraq.

I am very concerned with the President's recent announcement of a complete withdrawal by the end of the year. Fulfilling a campaign promise at the expense of American national security interests is at best strategic neglect and at worst downright irresponsible. It seems painfully clear to me--and to many analysts--that the Iraqi Army is not yet prepared to defend Iraq from the threat posed by its nefarious neighbor to the east.

The Administration's current policy appears to focus on normalizing our relationship with Iraq; but the situation in Iraq is not normal. Indeed, I fear that our objective is no longer to ensure Iraq is stable, but merely to withdraw our forces by the end of this year in order to meet a political timeline. Saying that Iraq is "secure, stable, and self reliant," as Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough recently did, does not make it so. And to borrow a quote from you, Madam Secretary, when you were serving in the other body, it requires "the willing suspension of disbelief" to accept that withdrawing our forces from Iraq at a time when Iranian agents seek to harm at every turn our country and its allies advances our strategic interests.

Although I understand that Iraq is a sovereign country, I believe there is much more we could have done to secure a larger troop presence beyond the end of this year. Accordingly, I'd like to echo Senator Lieberman's recent call to reopen negotiations with the Iraqis. It would be a failure of colossal proportions to withdraw our forces before Iraq is ready to stand on its own.

This decision also offers a disturbing insight into the Administration's definition of "conditions-based withdrawal," which is, of course, its policy in Afghanistan. When asked recently whether not leaving a residual force in Iraq endangers hard-fought gains, you responded: "I think that they should have raised those issues when President Bush agreed to the agreement to withdraw troops by the end of this year." Is this what we should expect of an Obama Administration in 2014 if conditions in Afghanistan do not justify withdrawal?

I hope you will address exactly what conditions we would like to see before we withdraw and what contingency planning the Administration is conducting should indeed we get to 2014 and discover that conditions in Afghanistan have not progressed as quickly as we hope they will. As one reporter recently observed, "It used to be that American withdrawal was conditioned on success. Now, it seems, withdrawal has become the definition of success. If that's the case, success in Afghanistan will feel a lot like failure."