Signing a security agreement with Iraq likely wouldn’t have prevented the resurgence of al-Qaida and the ongoing violence in the country, a Defense official said Tuesday.
“I do think that the idea that if we had negotiated a follow-on settlement with the Iraqis, and had a SOFA [status of forces agreement] and a remaining force, the idea that that force would be able to prevent what’s going on is — I’m not sure that that would be possible,” said Elissa Slotkin, the principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs, adding that at the height of the U.S. troop surge there were similar levels of violence in the Anbar Province in western Iraq.
Slotkin testified as part of a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the U.S. military position in the Middle East. Republicans have criticized President Obama for shifting what they view as needed attention away from the region. The administration recently deployed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry to push back against the belief that the United States is stepping away from its Middle East commitments.
Committee Chairman Buck McKeon asked what lessons could be transferred from the ongoing violence in Iraq and the lack of a security agreement to the drawdown in Afghanistan, where President Hamid Karzai is refusing to let a bilateral security agreement be signed until after the election.
But the Defense official said she wasn’t sure “a remaining force of 10,000 would have been able to prevent” the violence or that the situations are “analogous.” The Defense Department is recommending the administration keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after this year. It’s similar to the number of troops the Obama administration offered to leave in Iraq.
But officials stressed that the administration is focused on helping the Iraqis secure their country, through providing military equipment including the recent transfer of Hellfire missiles and helicopters.
“We have made an extraordinary effort … to give them the weaponry, and frankly the intelligence support that they need to meet this … renewed threat,” said Anne Patterson, assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs, adding that the U.S. will step up its training with the Iraqis.
What We're Following See More »
As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."