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Barack Obama was triumphant in announcing that troops would leave Iraq this year, cementing a promise. His rivals say it's proof of failure.

Mitt Romney slammed Obama over the announcement that all U.S. troops would leave Iraq by the end of the year, saying it's proof that the administration was either playing politics or simply "incompetent."

The Obama administration couldn't reach a deal with the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on prolonging the immunity of U.S. troops from prosecution in Iraq, a key sticking point in the administration's stated aim to keep U.S. troops in Iraq into 2012 to help with security.

"Was the president's administration outnegotiated by the Iraqi leaders?" Romney said in an appearance in New Hampshire, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Was there a failure to communicate the needs of their military and our own? Or was there simply a political recalculation?"

Romney's criticism relates to failed efforts to reach a status-of-forces agreement with the Iraqi government to maintain a small presence before the final transition to the Iraqi military.

"To understand whether their failure was due to politics or due to ineptitude we'd have to hear from military commanders on the ground," he said.
Romney's not the only one making problematic noise about Obama and the withdrawal. So is Nouri al-Maliki, according to The Wall Street Journal.
"When the issue of immunity was brought up and the Iraqi side was told that the American side won't leave a single soldier without full immunity and the Iraqi answer was that it's impossible to grant immunity to a single American soldier, negotiations stopped regarding the numbers, location and mechanics of training," Mr. Maliki told reporters in Baghdad.
There will be U.S. personnel remaining in the country, just not members of the armed forces. Those would be private contractors, and local resistance seems likely to continue.
Meanwhile, in the first reaction from firebrand Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to President Obama's announcement, the official website of his political movement posted on Saturday a photograph of him in military fatigues with a rifle propped on a desk. The image was accompanied by a scanned document in which he responds to a follower's query about a possible increase in U.S. personnel at the embassy in Baghdad after the end of the year.
"They are all occupiers and must be resisted after the end of the [withdrawal] period," wrote Mr. Sadr, who has been among the most vociferous opponents of all U.S. military presence in Iraq.
White House officials have said that the U.S. will maintain between 4,000 and 5,000 security contractors in Iraq to protect American diplomats.
But the American public is ready to move on, David Mack of the Middle East Institute told CNN. "As for U.S. domestic politics, most of the American public is fed up with our involvement in Iraq," he said.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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