(Wait, what? – promoted by Colorado Pols)
On a Denver radio show Friday, Rep. Mike Coffman affirmed his opposition to the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq, adding that, even now, he'd deploy U.S. military personnel to Iraq, if they were invited, to serve in an advisory role.
Asked by KNUS talk-show host Dan Caplis if he'd support "boots back on the ground in Iraq," Coffman replied:
Coffman: Certainly an advisory role, but certainly not anything beyond that. And that's if requested. I think we have to be very careful once out about reentering that particular conflict. I would say, in terms of regular troops on the ground, absolutely not."
During the interview, Coffman expressed regret that U.S. troops are not on the ground in Iraq today, to help the Iraqi government confront sectarian violence.
"Some residual force would have maintained at least that military-military, government-to-government ties that we would have had some influence there," Coffman told KNUS' Dan Caplis Friday. "Right now we have no influence."
Coffman didn't offer details on the size of the "residual force" he had in mind, but back in 2009 he endorsed the Administration's plan envisioning an American force of up to 50,000 troops remaining in Iraq.
On the radio, Coffman criticized President Barack Obama for withdrawing troops from Iraq. If Obama hadn't pulled out so many troops, it's possible a residual force could have been left in Iraq, Coffman said, and the current crisis might have been avoided.
Coffman: "I think the Administration was looking for a narrative that we ended war in Iraq. And the Iraqi government had requested some kind of residual presence, if anything to be symbolic to the Iraqi people that we were still engaged. And that's, I think, very important, probably to this day, although the decision has been made… But what the Administration kept doing is lowering the number of troops, and obviously insisting, as they should, that Status of Forces Agreement keep U.S. military personnel under U.S. jurisdiction, as we always insist on. The Iraqi government clearly had to expend the political capital to accept that. And they were willing to until the numbers dropped so low that it wasn't worth it to them to do that. And so the Administration is now saying, 'Well, we gave them the opportunity, and they didn't take it, in terms of the Status of Forces Agreement.' But the Administration just wanted out. And I think we're suffering some of the consequences of that today." [BigMedia emphasis]
Under the Status of Forces Agreement, Obama planned in 2011 on keeping 10,000 troops in Iraq. Later, he lowered the number to about 5,000, before the troops were asked by the Iraqis to leave. Based on this, and his statement above, Coffman appears to have been prepared to leave at least 10,000 troops in Iraq or more, if necessary to make it worth it to the Iraqis politically.
Coffman's announcement that he favors the re-deployment of advisory troops to Iraq appears to be a reversal of a position he took in 2011, when he stated that he supported President Barack Obama's decision to remove all troops from the country.