Iraq’s top general has called for U.S. troops to stay in the country until 2020, a telling reminder that President Barack Obama’s supposed withdrawal more than seven years after the 2003 invasion is nothing more than a publicity stunt, with tens of thousands of U.S. forces remaining as a residual occupying army for decades to come.
“At this point, the withdrawal is going well, because they [U.S. forces] are still here,” Lt. Gen. Babakir Zebari told a news conference in the Baghdad. “But the problem will start after 2011.”
“If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians, ‘the U.S. army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020,’” he said.
Despite public pronouncements by Obama that a plan to fully withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011 is in progress, the details of the agreement actually establish a permanent presence of a sizable occupying force in perpetuity.
As the New York Times reported when the plan was first made public in February 2009, after the supposed “full” withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, “Obama plans to leave behind a “residual force” of tens of thousands of troops to continue training Iraqi security forces, hunt down foreign terrorist cells and guard American institutions.”
Why troops would be needed to “guard American institutions” when, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, the plan is to “turn over bases that Americans have been on to the Iraqis” by the end of this month, doesn’t make sense, unless the bases are to remain under U.S. control.
A senior military officer made it clear that there would not be a proper withdrawal under the plan when he told the Los Angeles TImes, “‘When President Obama said we were going to get out within 16 months, some people heard, ‘get out,’ and everyone’s gone. But that is not going to happen,’ the officer said.”