Top Army General: Jeb Bush Has Iraq War Details Wrong

| by Kathryn Schroeder

The U.S. Army’s top general thinks former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, has the details of why the U.S. withdrew troops from Iraq wrong.

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, the former highest-ranking officer in Iraq, was asked by a reporter during a press conference on Aug. 11 about his thoughts on the claim made by Bush that the Obama administration, after a successful troop surge, abandoned Iraq to redeveloped sectarianism and the Islamic State group, Defense News reports.

"I don't think it's black and white, I think it's gray. I think the military operations we conducted provided an opportunity for us to be successful," Odierno said. “I remind everybody that us leaving in 2011 was negotiated in 2008 by the Bush administration, and that was always the plan. We said we would respect their sovereignty, and so that was always our plan."

Bush claimed that the “premature withdrawal” from Iraq helped enable Islamic State group to move into the country.

“So why was the success of the surge followed by a withdrawal from Iraq, leaving not even the residual force that commanders and the joint chiefs knew was necessary?" Bush questioned. "And where was Secretary of State (Hillary) Clinton in all of this? Like the president himself, she had opposed the surge, then joined in claiming credit for its success, then stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away."

"That premature withdrawal was the fatal error, creating the void that (Islamic State group) moved in to fill and that Iran has exploited to the full as well,” Bush said. “(Islamic State group) grew while the United States disengaged from the Middle East and ignored the threat.”

The agreement to withdraw troops was made in November 2008 between the George W. Bush administration and Iraq.

“All the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than Dec. 31, 2011,” the agreement read.

U.S. officials reportedly asked Iraqi leadership to extend troop presence but they would not agree to exempt American troops from Iraqi law.

Odierno would not answer whether he thinks the U.S. worked hard enough to secure a deal for continued troop presence.

"I hesitate to say that because, frankly, I was not there," Odierno said. "I was told there was an effort to do that, so I can't tell you it was a robust effort. I simply can't comment. If I was there I'd give you an honest answer."

Had U.S. troops remained in Iraq past the deadline without legal protections they would have been in violation of international law, Odierno added.

Bush defended his comments during a campaign event in Iowa on Aug. 13, reports The Huffington Post.

"Well look, this is the, this aggressive effort to rewrite history," Bush said. "It was clear on both sides in 2008, at the end of my brother’s term, that there was a need to renegotiate this agreement in 2011. I mean, to rewrite history now, I just think is completely improper, and it didn’t happen, and it could’ve happened for sure, it could’ve happened."

"I reject this out of hand, this whole idea that somehow after the surge, that they’re just doing it because the agreement required them to do it," Bush continued. "I mean, leadership requires you to create a strategy and then act on it. The United States of America can negotiate an agreement of this kind with Iraq. This is ridiculous to suggest it was too difficult to do."

Sources: Defense News, The Huffington Post  / Photo credit: Jim Greenhill/Flickr