Mitt Romney condemned President Obama’s decision to recall all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year, essentially accusing the administration Friday of increasing the risk that the country will tumble into political chaos or fall under increased Iranian influence.
“President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women,” the Republican presidential candidate said in a statement.
“The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq,” he said.
In an appearance Friday in the White House briefing room, Obama announced that all of the approximately 40,000 troops now serving in Iraq will come home by the end of 2011.
Romney’s criticism appears to relate to administration’s failure to arrive at an agreement with the Iraqi government to allow several thousand American troops to remain in the country for training and special operations.
His campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier in the day, Obama took part in a secure video conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Malaki, in which the two leaders discussed the pullout.
Some military analysts fear that without a continuous U.S. presence, Iraq will come under the increasing political influence of the government of Iran.
House Speaker John Boehner, in a more measured statement, noted that while he was concerned that a full pullout by American troops could jeopardize “hard-fought” gains in the country, he said he was “hopeful that both countries will work together to guarantee a free and democratic Iraq.”
Before Romney’s blast, the GOP presidential field had been largely quiet in the wake of Obama’s announcement. But Rep. Michele Bachmann soon followed Romney’s statement with one of her own that slammed the president's decision.
“Today's announcement that we will remove all of our forces from Iraq is a political decision and not a military one; it represents the complete failure of President Obama to secure an agreement with Iraq for our troops to remain there to preserve the peace and demonstrates how far our foreign policy leadership has fallen,” Bachmann said. “In every case where the United States has liberated a people from dictatorial rule, we have kept troops in that country to ensure a peaceful transition and to protect fragile growing democracies. “
She said the U.S. would no longer be able to counter the “strengthening of Iran’s influence in Iraq.”