White House says Iraq can fend for itself after series of attacks

The White House defended President Obama's decision not to leave U.S. troops in Iraq after the worst violence in two decades thrust the troubled country back in the headlines Monday.

At least 106 people were killed across the country in attacks against security forces and Shi'a neighborhoods, The Guardian reported, raising fears of a resurgent al-Qaeda presence in the country. The violence forced the White House to once again defend Obama's decision not to keep U.S. troops in the country past the end of last year.

“There is no question that Iraq remains a violent place, and we strongly condemn the attacks in Iraq,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters traveling with the president to his address at the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Reno, where the president said he winded down the war in Iraq "responsibly."

“It is also the case that Iraq is not nearly as violent a place as it was, and that, thanks to the enormous sacrifice of U.S. military personnel, Iraqi security forces have been trained up and have the capacity to deal with their own internal security, which was exactly what the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people wanted," Carney said.

The administration says the Iraqis balked at granting U.S. troops immunity from prosecution past December 2011. But critics in Congress say Obama, who has long opposed what he has called the “dumb” war in Iraq,  didn't fight hard enough because he wanted to end the war quickly all along.

Carney seemed to acknowledge as much in his remarks.

“Well, I understand that there are those who think we never should have ended the war in Iraq, that we should stay in Iraq, perhaps, for a second decade. The President simply disagrees with that. And the fact of the matter is that, as I said, thanks to the sacrifice and professionalism of U.S. military personnel, Iraq has significant numbers of security personnel who are engaged in and capable of providing security internally to their own country,” he said. “And I also question the general premise that the United States should militarily — should send forces to every country that has an internal security problem in order to take for — in order to deal with that security on the behalf of the other country.”

Earlier in the day, the Pentagon spokesman also expressed confidence that Iraqi security officials are “prepared to address" the situation.