Mitt Romney issued a scathing rebuke Friday of President Obama's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by year's end, joining a chorus of Republicans critical of the president's decision.
Romney sharply criticized the announcement this afternoon by Obama that all troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, fulfilling one of Obama's main promises from the 2008 campaign, that he would end the war in Iraq.
“President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women," Romney said in a statement. "The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government."
Romney's sentiment is in tune with what Republicans have said Friday afternoon; most GOP voices have expressed concern that the withdrawal would imperil progress made after almost nine years' worth of war in Iraq.
"I feel all we have worked for, fought for, and sacrificed for is very much in jeopardy by today’s announcement. I hope I am wrong and the President is right, but I fear this decision has set in motion events that will come back to haunt our country," said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the most vocal proponents of the war, in a statement.
Obama's decision Friday technically follows through on an agreement struck late during President George W. Bush's administration, which set a goal of rull withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2011. But Republicans have generally criticized Obama for having established timetables to pull out of both Iraq and Afghanistan, arguing that Obama should be more flexible to the requests of commanders on the ground.
"Today's announcement that we will remove all of our forces from Iraq is a political decision and not a military one; it represents the complete failure of President Obama to secure an agreement with Iraq for our troops to remain there to preserve the peace and demonstrates how far our foreign policy leadership has fallen," Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said in a statement. She said the U.s. should have demanded repayment for its cost of liberating Iraq, and demanded that Obama "return to the negotiating table with Iraq and lead from the front and not from weakness in Iraq and in the world."
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a presidential candidate who's been one of the most critical Republicans of the war, even expressed skepticism toward's Obama's announcement.
"I bet the Embassy doesn't close down," he told NBC's Anthony Terrell in Iowa.
Herman Cain, in Detroit on Friday to promote his economic plan, also disagreed with Obama's decision.
"Whether or not its the right thing to do, I would consult with the commanders. The thing that I wouldn't do that the president is doing is telling the enemy how many troops you gonna bring out and when you're going to bring them out," he told NBC's Andrew Rafferty. "I believe our time there was worth it...But I would not have announced this big draw down, tell the enemy so they are going to basically position themselves."
Democrats, by contrast, were supportive of the president’s announcement.
Obama "honored our international commitments and advanced our national security," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. "This is the right decision at the right time," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The announcement this afternoon by Obama, which came with short notice even to the media, seemed to have taken Republicans, including most of the presidential candidates, off-guard. Hours after Obama's announcement, most Republican leaders hadn't issued a statement on the withdrawal. And there was a protracted public dispute between the White House and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) over whether the administration had reached out to Boehner to brief the GOP Speaker on the decision before it was announced.
Boehner, in a statement, was less pointed in his criticism than some of his other GOP colleagues.
"While I’m concerned that a full withdrawal could jeopardize those gains, I’m hopeful that both countries will work together to guarantee that a free and democratic Iraq remains a strong and stable partner for the United States in the Middle East," he said.
An ally of Boehner, California Rep. Buck McKeon, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, criticized the decision in the same vein as most other Republicans.
"I remain concerned that this full withdrawal of US forces will make that road tougher than it needs to be. Multiple experts have testified before my committee that the Iraqis still lack important capacities in their ability to maintain their internal stability and territorial integrity," he said. "These shortcomings could reverse the decade of hard work and sacrifice both countries have endured to build a free Iraq."