Debate Fact Check: Obama Would Have Kept Thousands Of Troops In Iraq Under The Status Of Forces Agreement

- October 23, 2012

Obama Tried To Claim His Failed Status Of Forces Agreement With Iraq Would Not Have Left Thousands Of Troops In Iraq For Years

THE CLAIM: Obama Tried To Deny That He Proposed A Status Of Forces Agreement That Would Have Left Thousands Of Troops In Iraq. ROMNEY: "You didn't want a status of forces agreement?" OBAMA: "What I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East." ROMNEY: "I'm sorry. You actually -- there was an effort on the part of the president to have a status of forces against, and I concurred in that and said we should have a number of troops that stayed on. That was something I concurred with. That was your posture and mine as well. You thought it should have been 5,000 troops and I thought it should have been more troops." OBAMA: "Governor, this was done a few weeks ago. A few weeks ago you indicated we should still have troops in Iraq." ROMNEY: "No, I didn't. Sorry, I indicated that you failed to put in place a status of forces agreement at the end of the conflict that existed." (2012 Presidential Debate, Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL, 10/22/12)

  • "Obama Suggested That Mr. Romney Was Mistaken In Seeking To Keep 10,000 American Troops In Iraq. But The Obama Administration Initially Sought To Do Just That." "President Obama suggested that Mr. Romney was mistaken in seeking to keep 10,000 American troops in Iraq. But the Obama administration initially sought to do just that - and ultimately never managed to negotiate an agreement to allow any American troops in Iraq." (Michael Gordon and Scott Shane, "Fact Check: A Status Of Forces Agreement?" The New York Times , 10/22/12)

But The Facts Show That Had He Successfully Negotiated The Agreement, Thousands Of U.S. Troops Would Have Remained In Iraq After 2011

THE FACTS: "Obama Sought To Negotiate A Status Of Forces Agreement That Would Have Allowed United States Troops To Stay In Iraq After 2011." "Mr. Obama sought to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement that would have allowed United States troops to stay in Iraq after 2011. Initially, the Obama administration was prepared to keep up to 10,000 troops in Iraq. Later, the Obama administration lowered the figure to about 5,000 troops - some 3,500 of which would be continuously based in the country while the remainder would periodically be rotated through. The role of the American forces would be to train Iraqi troops, patrol Iraq's skies and help Iraqi commandos fight Al Qaeda." (Michael Gordon and Scott Shane, "Fact Check: A Status Of Forces Agreement?" The New York Times, 10/22/12)

  • THE FACTS: "Obama Wanted To Leave Several Thousand Troops In Iraq." " notes that Obama wanted to leave several thousand troops in Iraq, but the Iraqis would have none of it. Romney strongly criticized the Status of Forces agreement with the Iraqi government, saying at a roundtable discussion in November 2011, 'It is my view that the withdrawal of all of our troops from Iraq by the end of this year is an enormous mistake.' Romney told Fox News that Obama should have left '10-, 20- 30- thousand personnel there.'" (Josh Smith, Sophie Quinton, and Olga Belogolova, "Debate Fact Check: The Third Presidential Debate Between Barack Obama And Mitt Romney," National Journal , 10/22/12)
  • THE FACTS: "Obama Also Wanted To Leave Several Thousand U.S. Troops In Iraq." "Obama also wanted to leave several thousand U.S. troops in Iraq. He tried to negotiate a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government to allow a residual U.S. force there, but the Iraqi government refused to grant legal immunity to any remaining U.S. troops. The last troops pulled out in December 2011." (Brooks Jackson, "Homestretch Fact-Stretchers," FactCheck.Org, 10/22/12)
  • THE FACTS: NBC's Richard Haass: "Even The Administration I Think Has Kept Open The Possibility Of A So Called Residual Force There." NBC's RICHARD HAASS: "Even the administration I think has kept open the possibility of a so called residual force there, and that was an odd counterpoint to the conversation about Iraq, where it was almost confusing. Governor Romney was saying we should have kept some forces there, and the president was talking about how good it was we had gotten all of our forces out when in fact, the United States did try to negotiate some sort of an arrangement with the Iraqis where some forces could stay. So I found all of this somewhat, somewhat odd. But again, to me the larger, the larger bottom line of the night was that on foreign policy issues actually, there was much more agreement than disagreement. (NBC's " 2012 Presidential Debate," 10/22/12)

THE FACTS: "Actually, The Obama Administration Tried For Many Months To Win Iraqi Agreement To Keeping Several Thousand American Troops There Beyond 2011 To Continue Training And Advising The Iraqi Armed Forces." "Obama was suggesting that he had never favored keeping U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the December 2011 withdrawal deadline that the Bush administration had negotiated with the Iraqi government. Actually, the Obama administration tried for many months to win Iraqi agreement to keeping several thousand American troops there beyond 2011 to continue training and advising the Iraqi armed forces. The talks broke down over a disagreement on legal immunity for U.S. troops." (Calvin Woodward, "FACT CHECK: Missteps In Final Presidential Debate," The Associated Press , 10/22/12)

  • THE FACTS: "The Obama Administration Says That It Was Willing To Keep Some Troops In Iraq, But The Iraqis, Reflecting Their Concerns Over Sovereignty, Failed To Agree To The Necessary Immunities. "After the talks broke down, the Obama administration withdrew the remaining American troops in December 2011, the deadline set for withdrawing all American forces from Iraq under the Status of Forces Agreement that was concluded by George W. Bush and Mr. Mailiki in 2008." (Michael Gordon and Scott Shane, "Fact Check: A Status Of Forces Agreement?" The New York Times, 10/22/12)

THE FACTS: "Romney's Right-Obama Did Try To Get A Status Of Forces Agreement, But Could Not Get An Agreement With The Government Of Iraq." "Romney's right-Obama did try to get a status of forces agreement, but could not get an agreement with the government of Iraq. So now he stresses the fact that he has removed all troops from Iraq, while knocking Romney for supporting what he originally had hoped to achieve." (Glenn Kessler, "Fact Check: Debate Over Iraq Withdrawal," The Washington Post, 10/22/12)

  • THE FACTS: "Mitt Romney Claimed President Obama Was Looking To Keep Some Troops There As Well. … Our Verdict From What Mitt Romney Says Is Mostly True." CNN's JON BERMAN: "Coming up, this is the important context, on Iraq. Mitt Romney claimed that President Obama was looking to keep some troops there as well, which the president denied. …So what are the facts here? Well, Leon Panetta - the Secretary Of Defense - was negotiated to keep 3,000 to 5,000 troops in Iraq, within a so-called 'Status of Forces' agreement. This fell apart over the issue of whether U.S. troops would have certain immunity from prosecution. So our verdict here from what Mitt Romney says here is mostly true. The president did seem willing to leave some troops in Iraq under certain conditions, the deal just fell apart." CNN's WOLF BLITZER: "That 'Status of Forces' agreement negotiation collapsed, as a result, all U.S. troops out of Iraq." (CNN's "Reality Check," 10/22/12)
  • THE FACTS: MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell: " Governor Romney Is Right." MSNBC's ANDREA MITCHELL: "So Governor Romney is right, that the administration has tried and failed to get an agreement called Status of Forces Agreement that, in fact, would have allowed a small force of troops to remain for several years in Iraq." (NBC, 10/22/12)
  • THE FACTS: Fox News' Chris Wallace: "I Think You Have To Give The Points To Mitt Romney On That… Romney Was Right, Obama Was Wrong. Obama Wanted And Failed To Get A Status Of Forces Agreement." FOX NEWS' CHRIS WALLACE: "Well, in fact, I think you have to give the points to Mitt Romney on that, provided as part of the troop withdrawal by George W. Bush and in a deal with the Iraqi Prime Minister is that there would be a status of forces agreement and that there would be a residual force there was talk of it as little as 5,000. The military wanted closer to 20,000. The person put in charge of it was Joe Biden, the Vice President, and at one point he said I will bet you my Vice Presidency, Malaki, the Iraqi prime minister will extend the status of forces agreement. But it all fell apart. They never got it, but it's clear Romney was right, Obama was wrong. Obama wanted and failed to get a status of forces agreement." (Fox News, 10/22/12)

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