The Obama administration’s Deputy National Security Adviser Antony Blinken told a New York City think tank the U.S. needed to leave Iraq in 2011 so that it could return.
The White House official told the Carnegie Endowment audience Wednesday that the U.S. was a “the victim of success,” because decreased violence made it difficult to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement.
“The Iraqi body politic did not want us to stay in Iraq. That’s what happened,” Mr. Blinken said, Defense News reported.
The official said that once violence began to rise again, Iraqi overtures for a return of U.S. assistance — although still complicated — began.
“In effect, we had to leave in order to find a way back on the security side, and gradually build up our engagement,” Mr. Blinken said, Defense News reported.
Mr. Blinken asserted that when President Obama met with then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki in November 2013, “ISIL was at the top of the agenda,” Defense News reported. He said the president stressed to Mr. Maliki the need to do more to reconcile differences between Sunnis and Iraq’s Shiite-led government.
There are now roughly 1,400 U.S. military personnel in Iraq advising its military on how to deal with the Islamic State group, which controls large swathes of the country. U.S. airstrikes have also targeted the terror group since August.
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