Romney: Obama puts Iraq victory ‘at risk’

Mitt Romney condemned President Obama on Friday for his decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, saying Obama is putting U.S. victory in Iraq at risk.

“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 said in a news release. “The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.”

The front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination has previously criticized Obama for not listening to his “generals on the ground” in announcing a troop drawdown in Afghanistan.

“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.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) later weighed in with similar criticism, slamming the troop withdrawal as “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,” Bachmann said in a news release. “In every case where the United States has liberated a people from dictatorial rule, we have kept troops in that country to ensure a peaceful transition and to protect fragile growing democracies.”

Bachmann also warned that the troop drawdown would give Iran an opportunity to gain influence over Iraq.

“President Obama’s decision represents the end of the era of America’s influence in Iraq and the strengthening of Iran’s influence in Iraq, with no plan to counter that influence,” she said. “We have been ejected from a country by the people that we liberated and that the United States paid for with precious blood and treasure. The United States needed a working democratic partnership in Iraq, and we should have demanded that Iraq repay the full cost of liberating them, given their rich oil revenues. I call on the president to return to the negotiating table with Iraq and lead from the front and not from weakness in Iraq and in the world.” 

Romney was the first top-tier Republican presidential candidate to respond to Obama’s announcement, made earlier Friday. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R) responded first with a tweet: “Troops out of Iraq by the holidays — Good news, but LONG overdue.”

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said Obama's decision to totally withdraw troops from Iraq was a mistake. Huntsman said a better idea would have been to leave a small counterterrorism and training oriented force behind.

"President Obama’s decision, however, to not leave a small, focused presence in Iraq is a mistake and the product of his administration’s failures," Huntsman said in a statement. "The president's inability to reach a security agreement leaves Iraq vulnerable to backsliding, thus putting our interests in the region at risk. An ideal arrangement would have left a small troop presence that could have assisted with the training of Iraqi security forces and vital counter-terror efforts."

—This story was last updated at 5:10 p.m.

Daniel Strauss contributed reporting.