Skip to main content

CNN Fact Check: Romney, Obama and Iraq

By the CNN Wire Staff
October 23, 2012 -- Updated 1458 GMT (2258 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Obama opposed the war in Iraq and touted its end
  • His administration sought to extend a U.S. training mission there, however
  • Romney has criticized the failure of that effort and said troops should have stayed

(CNN) -- Although it has been over for nearly a year now, the war in Iraq continued to be a flash point in Monday night's debate between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

"You say that you're not interested in duplicating what happened in Iraq," said Obama, a Democrat who opposed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. "But just a few weeks ago, you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now. ... You said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day."

But Romney, who supported the invasion, said Obama wanted to keep U.S. troops there longer -- he just couldn't get the Iraqis to go along.

Fact Check: Comparing costs of Iraq, Libya missions

"There was an effort on the part of the president to have a Status of Forces Agreement, and I concurred in that, and said that we should have some number of troops that stayed on," Romney said.

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney depart the stage after the debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on Monday, October 22. The third and final presidential debate focused on foreign policy. See the best photos from the second presidential debate. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney depart the stage after the debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on Monday, October 22. The third and final presidential debate focused on foreign policy. See the best photos from the second presidential debate.
The final presidential debate
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: The final presidential debate Photos: The final presidential debate
Obama, Romney spar over troops in Iraq
Reality Check: Is Russia our biggest foe?
Obama, Romney battle over foreign policy

"You thought it should have been 5,000 troops," he told Obama. "I thought there should have been more troops, but you know what? The answer was we got no troops through whatsoever."

Since the nearly nine-year war remains controversial back home, CNN is taking a closer look at both candidates' claims.

The facts:

The Status of Forces Agreement signed between the United States and Iraq in 2008 called for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities by 2009 and be out of the country entirely by the end of 2011.

Obama opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq while still a state legislator in Illinois and ran for president on a platform of ending that war. But with the 2011 deadline nearing, his administration -- which took office after the agreement was signed -- tried to make arrangements with Iraq to keep between 3,000 and 5,000 Americans in the country to help train Iraqi security forces.

Fact Check: Obama's apology tour?

"If they want the benefits of what we can provide, if they want the assistance, if they want the training, if they want the operational skills that we can provide, then I think they have to understand that they've got to give us some protections in that process," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in October 2011.

Those talks failed when the Iraqis refused to grant legal immunity for U.S. troops, and the last U.S. convoy left Iraq in December 2011. Obama touted that as a promise kept, saying Americans would be leaving "with their heads held high."

The president also has touted that as a promise kept during his re-election campaign. But Romney has consistently criticized the Obama administration for its failure to reach a deal with the Iraqi government on keeping those troops there.

In December 2011, with the final pullout looming, Romney told Fox News Sunday that the Obama administration was ending the American presence "in a precipitous way, and we should have left 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 personnel there to help transition to the Iraqis' own military capabilities."

Two weeks before Monday night's debate, in a speech at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney said the "costly gains" made in Iraq were slipping away.

Fact Check: Is al Qaeda's core decimated or growing?

"And yet, America's ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence," he said. "The president tried -- and failed -- to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gains."

Conclusion:

Each man's attacks are rooted in fact. The Obama administration did attempt, unsuccessfully, to extend the presence of a scaled-back U.S. training mission in Iraq, while Romney has said Washington should have kept a considerably larger force in Baghdad.

Complete coverage of CNN's Fact Checks

CNN's Mike Mount, Jamie Crawford and Matt Smith contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 23, 2012 -- Updated 1458 GMT (2258 HKT)
Although it has been over for nearly a year now, the war in Iraq continued to be a flash point in the final debate.
October 23, 2012 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
President Barack Obama made the case that al Qaeda in Pakistan is decimated while Mitt Romney argued they are on the rise in other countries.
October 23, 2012 -- Updated 1322 GMT (2122 HKT)
President Barack Obama accused Mitt Romney of initially being against a withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan in 2014.
October 23, 2012 -- Updated 1318 GMT (2118 HKT)
The contention that President Obama apologized to other nations for American behavior has been mentioned repeatedly by his critics, including Mitt Romney.
October 23, 2012 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
President Barack Obama asserted that it cost the United States less to help oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi than it did to run two weeks of the 2003-2011 war in Iraq.
October 23, 2012 -- Updated 2158 GMT (0558 HKT)
President Barack Obama said Gov. Mitt Romney had criticized his administration for being too tough against China, and bringing a protectionist case at the World Trade Organization.
October 20, 2012 -- Updated 1648 GMT (0048 HKT)
Conservative critics launched an attack on moderator Candy Crowley after she corrected Romney's claim that Obama did not refer to the consulate attack in Benghazi as an "act of terror."
October 17, 2012 -- Updated 1150 GMT (1950 HKT)
Romney highlighted the number of women in the unemployment lines during President Barack Obama's term.
October 17, 2012 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Obama said he identified the September 11 assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya as a terrorist attack within a day; Romney said it took two weeks.
October 17, 2012 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Obama touted his administration's support for the federal Pell Grant program and other aid for college students.
October 17, 2012 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Obama boasted that the Affordable Care Act gives insured women free contraception coverage, and said Romney thinks employers should decide whether women can get contraception through insurance.
October 12, 2012 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
Fears of a possibly nuclear-armed Iran took center stage early in the vice presidential debate between Biden and Ryan.
October 12, 2012 -- Updated 1218 GMT (2018 HKT)
The September attack that killed four Americans at a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya was the subject of a few claims at the VP debate.
October 12, 2012 -- Updated 1220 GMT (2020 HKT)
Federal support for wind power and electric cars was one of the early flashpoints between Biden and Ryan.
October 12, 2012 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
The Affordable Care Act emerged as an issue between Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
ADVERTISEMENT