US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is making it clear that if he was President, he would not have withdrawn all the troops from Iraq. He is critical of President Obama's recent move to pull every last American soldier out of the country. He argued on Fox News Sunday
that some forces should have been left behind.
"I think we're going to find that this president, by not putting in place a status-of-forces agreement with the Iraqi leadership, has pulled our troops out in a precipitous way and we should have left 10-, 20-, 30,000 personnel there to help transition to the Iraqis' own military capabilities."
Mr Romney, whose candidacy has been up and down throughout the season, recently got the backing of senior Republican Bob Dole, a former Kansas senator and presidential candidate. The BBC
reports that Dole's backing of Romney's bid for the White House is an important boost for him as the Iowa caucuses approach. Romney also received an endorsement from the Des Moines Register, Iowa's premier newspaper. Dole's open letter to Romney appeared in that newspaper a day later,
"I've known Mitt and his family for decades. His parents instilled in him a strong work ethic, rock-solid conservative values, and a deep sense of service to others. These traits - which have shone through in both the debates and in my own visits with him - will serve him well in the White House."
The very last convoy of US troops to leave Iraq entered neighboring Kuwait on Sunday, nearly nine years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. President Obama had announced in October that all US troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011. This was the date previously agreed to by former President George W. Bush in 2008.
U.S. Officials wanted to have a small training and counter-terrorism remaining in Iraq, but were unable to strike a deal with Baghdad on legal issues including immunity for the troops if they stayed.
Washington is concerned that Iraq doesn't have the robust political structure or an ability to defend its borders. There are also fears that it might be plunged back into sectarian bloodletting, or be influenced by neighboring Iran.