Speaking with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the timing of the Obama administration’s effort to withdraw American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.
Pointing to the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq reached by the previous administration, Clinton said, “Bush also committed to withdrawing all troops by end of this year, so you have a bipartisan commitment to remove combat troops” by the end of 2011.Clinton also defended President Obama and his approach to foreign policy from Republican criticism that he was “leading from behind.”
“He was the one who brought [Osama] bin Laden finally down,” she said. “He was the one who put together a coalition that eventually removed [Muammar] Qadhafi. So I think it’s important that in this very complex, dangerous world that we have someone in the White House who understands America has to lead. But we have to look at every situation and make the right decision.”
When questioned about reports that suggested full withdrawal was due to the fact that Iraq wouldn’t grant U.S. soldiers legal immunity, and not that it followed the timetable as planned, Clinton demurred.
“This was an ongoing discussion,” Clinton said. “At the end of the day as in many discussions, an agreement was reached that met the needs of both sides. We have fullfilled the commitment requested by the Iraqis … [and] we expect to have a continuing strong security relationship for many years to come.”
Clinton also reaffirmed the United States’ continuing partnership with Iraq, saying “a robust diplomatic presence” would be left behind.
Pressed by Wallace about criticism from the 2012 Republican presidential field, such as that of Mitt Romney who hit Obama on his handling of Iraq, Clinton pointed out that you can’t have it both ways.
“You can’t on the one hand say you’re all for democracy and sovereignty and independence where people get to make their own choices,” she said, “and on the other hand say that when a choice is made that is foreseen by our own government going back to the Bush administration and validated by the Obama administration and the current government in Iraq, that that somehow is not appropriate.”