A Pentagon official has slammed Sen. Hillary Clinton's interest in DOD's contingency planning for future IRaq withdrawal, writing in a sharply worded rebuke that, "Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia."
The letter from Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman was in response to a May request from Clinton, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee and has repeatedly expressed concern to military leaders about the need to plan for what will be a lengthy and complicated process of removing troops and equipment.
Edelman wrote that "such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks."
Instead of addressing Clinton's questions regarding DOD contingency planning, the bulk of Edelman's letter instead profiled the current status and expectations for progress of the surge. The Clinton camp took little comfort in Edelman's concluding pledge, "I assure you, however, that as with other plans, we are always and evaluating and planning for possible contingencies."
Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines called Edelman's answer "at once outrageous and dangerous," and told the AP that the senator would respond to his boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
"Redeploying out of Iraq with the same combination of arrogance and incompetence with which the Bush administration deployed our young men and women into Iraq is completely unacceptable, and our troops deserve far better," said Reines, who said military leaders should offer a withdrawal plan rather than "a political plan to attack those who question them."
Pentagon officials last week acknowledged that even after the decision had been made to withdraw, it could require years to move all the US troops and equipment. Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of US troops in northern Iraq, said he would need 18 months to reduce the troop levels under his purview (5-6 brigades) by half.