BY MICHAEL BOWMAN – The Obama administration says the United States will stick to a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq, despite the country’s inability to form a coalition government and continuing sectarian violence.
Just one month remains for the Obama administration to complete the scheduled withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq. Vice President Joe Biden says Iraq is ready to stand on its own.
“Iraqi security is being provided by the Iraqis, with our [U.S.] assistance. We are still going to have 50,000 troops there. We will have brought home 95,000,” he said. “There is no one in the military who thinks we cannot do that. I do not have a doubt in my mind that we will be able to meet the commitment of having only 50,000 troops there, and it will not in any way affect the physical stability of Iraq.”
The vice president was speaking on ABC’s This Week program.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Iraq’s political parties to show greater urgency in forming a coalition government and end the political stalemate that has continued since inconclusive Iraqi elections in March.
Vice President Biden expressed confidence a coalition government will be forthcoming, and suggested that political squabbling by Iraqi factions is preferable to full-blown sectarian civil war – a fate many observers feared for Iraq just a few years ago.
“There will be a central government with control of its foreign policy, with control of the military,” said Mr. Biden. “And look: this is their first crack at democracy. Politics has broken out [in Iraq], not war.”
Even so, Iraq has seen an upswing in violence since the March elections.
Sunday, officials reported two suicide bombings, one southwest of Baghdad and another near the border with Syria. The blasts killed several dozen people and wounded dozens more.
U.S. President Barack Obama came into office promising to end the war in Iraq, which during the 2008 campaign he criticized as a “stupid” war. Since entering the White House, Mr. Obama has spoken of the benefits of preserving a stable and democratic Iraq.