WaPo skewers Obama for jeopardizing Iraq and Afghanistan, while endorsing him

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke

The Washington Post endorsed President Obama today, but they also noted that he wasted the efforts of the U.S. troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last ten years.

“[Obama] failed to capitalize on America’s decade-long commitment to Iraq by securing a presence there after ending the U.S. military mission, and his ambivalence regarding Afghanistan — sending more troops, but with artificial deadlines and no clear commitment to their success — promises trouble in coming years,” the editors note.

There’s nothing wrong with recognizing the failures of a candidate yet believing that, on balance, he’s better than his opponent. But that’s kind of a big deal. It was also a central argument of Mitt Romney and the Republicans during and after the foreign policy debate this week.

“We ended the war in Iraq,” Obama proclaimed, adding later to Romney that “Just a few weeks ago you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now.”

Romney wanted what the Washington Post wishes Obama had done. “There should have been a status of forces agreement,” he told Obama. The president tried to mask his record on this topic –”what I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down,” he said — but his own government website shows how he wanted to leave troops in Iraq after the end of the military mission.

“Under the Obama-Biden plan, a residual force will remain in Iraq and in the region to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda in Iraq and protect American diplomatic and civilian personnel,” noted in a blog post associated with the Office of the President-Elect.

Obama changed that plan when the Iraqi government refused to grant U.S. troops legal immunity, even though President Bush had won the exact same argument four years earlier when the issue was negotiated. Why the different results?

“Quite simply it was a matter of will: President Bush really wanted to get a deal done, whereas Mr. Obama did not,” The Wall Street Journal’s Max Boot wrote in a column. ” Mr. Bush spoke weekly with Mr. Maliki by video teleconference. Mr. Obama had not spoken with Mr. Maliki for months before calling him in late October to announce the end of negotiations. Mr. Obama and his senior aides did not even bother to meet with Iraqi officials at the United Nations General Assembly in September.”

Now al-Qaida has taken up residence in Iraq and “Iraq is going to hell in a handbasket,” according to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

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