Should violence in Iraq spike with the removal of American troops, military commanders and administration officials have cautioned a policy of wait and see. The drawdown of military personnel from Iraq country has gone on schedule. The White House has insisted that there are no plans to revise or revisit that process.
On Sunday, Vice President Joseph Biden closed that door even further. Speaking to ABC's "This Week" during a trip to Iraq, Biden insisted on multiple occasions that the United States would not put additional soldiers' lives on the line for Iraq, even if violence erupts in that country once again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What if the Iraqi people -- they've been dealing with these political disputes for an awful long time -- what if they can't solve them, the violence flares up again?
BIDEN: Well, that's going to be a tragic outcome for the Iraqi people. We made a commitment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But are we going to put our lives on the line again?
BIDEN: No. We made a commitment to withdraw our troops from the cities by the 30th, to withdraw our combat brigades from Iraq by next summer -- the end of next summer, and withdraw all troops according to the SOFA, that agreement we negotiated with them, by the end of 2011. That is our intention.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But no matter what, 2011, American troops all gone?
BIDEN: That is the intention. We believe the Iraqis will be fully capable of maintaining their own security. And we believe that with the time frame, with their upcoming election -- you know they're having an election in January, I know you know that, they'll form a new government early -- in late winter as a consequence of that election. And it is our expectation that that election will come off peacefully.
This is the furthest the Obama White House has gone to fully disengaging from Iraq's internal problems -- though Biden did qualify his remarks with the word "intention." At the same time, U.S. military forces will be in the country through 2010 in order to monitor hot spots of violence and the possible emergence of terrorism. One would think that such a rigid approach to the Iraq drawdown would leave the administration susceptible to domestic political attacks. But, as Biden noted, the White House is merely carrying out their predecessors' plan.
"You know, it's kind of ironic," Biden said of criticisms from former V.P. Dick Cheney, who said he feared the U.S. would "waste" the sacrifices of its armed forces in Iraq. "It's their timetable we are implementing. Cheney and Bush agreed with the Iraqis before we were elected that we'd have combat troops out of the cities by June 30th... I mean, for this he can't have it both ways. He negotiated that timetable. We have met the commitment, the timetable, the last administration negotiated with Iraqis. And we're totally confident that is the right thing to do. So I find it kind of ironic that he's criticizing his own agreement that he negotiated."