The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that she would oppose any move by the Obama administration to draw down troops in Iraq to 3,000 by the end of the year.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) made the remarks to reporters at the Capitol hours after Fox News reported that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had already signed off on the number, according to “multiple sources familiar with the inner workings and decisions on U.S. troop movements.” Panetta maintained Tuesday that “no decision has been made” on the troop levels.
“I think it’s a mistake,” Feinstein told reporters when asked about the report. “I think we now see groups attacking, and dozens of people being killed in each attack. And I think the situation needs to be secured, and it isn’t right now.”
Asked what would need to happen in order for her to be confident in such a significant drawdown, Feinstein said that it would take “the eradication of some of these terrorists, new groups.”
“I think it’s too fast; that’s my view,” she said. “As you read about these attacks, there are some serious things going on there.”
Currently 46,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq. Most of those troops have been on track to withdraw by Dec. 31, and as The Post’s Ed O’Keefe noted over the summer, an estimated 3,000 to 15,000 of those troops have been expected to remain in the country through 2012.
Fifteen U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq in June, making it the deadliest month for U.S. troops in the country in two years. A report this summer by the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction found that the security situation in the country is more dire than it was this time last year.
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said they were “deeply troubled” by the report.
“This is dramatically lower than what our military leaders have consistently told us over the course of repeated visits to Iraq that they require, and that is needed to support Iraq in safeguarding the hard-won gains that our two nations have achieved at such great cost,” they said. “In particular, we are very concerned by the prospect that a follow-on force might lack the capabilities and authorities necessary to help Iraqis ensure stability across the disputed territories in northern Iraq, which we consider an essential mission. We urge the Administration to work urgently with Iraqi authorities to reach an agreement that reflects the best military advice of U.S. commanders on the ground and allows the U.S. to safeguard our national interest in Iraq’s stability.”