Washington, D.C. — The highest-ranking U.S. military official suggested to a House panel on Thursday that the United States prematurely withdrew its military from Iraq at the end of 2011, leaving behind a country that was a “work in progress.”
“We left Iraq and we left it with some things undone. We hadn’t fully established the logistics architecture, an intelligence architecture,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing on the Obama administration’s military strategy against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (IS, also known as ISIS and ISIL).
“They did not have close-air support and the capability to integrate fires and we left there with a Ministry of Defense that was largely dysfunctional in the way it would assign leadership and they knew that,” he continued. “They knew we knew that. But it was not a completed work. It remained a work in progress.”
President Obama withdrew all American soldiers from Iraq in December 2011 after failing to negotiate a new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that would have provided a legal basis for U.S. military presence in the country.
U.S. officials failed in their attempts to reach an agreement with their Iraqi counterparts that would have allowed a residual force of several thousand American troops to remain in Iraq beyond the 2011 expiration of the SOFA signed by the George W. Bush administration.
According to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the second-ranking minority member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. military commanders were opposed to withdrawing all American troops from Iraq in 2011.
After the U.S. withdrawal, ISIS militants were able to seize large swathes of territory in Iraq and neighboring Syria.