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Obama, Romney tangle over troops in Iraq

President Obama went after Mitt Romney at the start of Monday’s debate over the end of the war in Iraq, accusing Romney of wanting to keep 10,000 troops there.

Romney disputed Obama’s characterization of his Iraq policy, saying that he and the president both supported an agreement to keep some military presence in Iraq. All U.S. troops departed by the end 2011.

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Obama has touted ending the war in Iraq and removing all U.S. troops as one of his signature policy achievements in the 2012 campaign, and Romney had not said much about it throughout the campaign.

But as Romney ramped up his offensive on foreign policy in recent weeks over the Libya attack, he also incorporated Iraq into his critique. Romney attacked Obama at a foreign policy speech earlier this month over the “abrupt withdrawal” of U.S. troops from Iraq last year, saying it led to increased violence and more Iranian influence.

Obama quickly jumped on Romney’s Iraq comments at Monday’s debate. He implied that Romney would not have ended the Iraq war in an attempt to tie him back to the George W. Bush administration on foreign policy.

“You said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day,” Obama said. “What I would not have had done was left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down.”

Romney said Obama was misrepresenting his positions, and that Romney didn’t support extending the war.

“I indicated that you failed to put in place a status of forces agreement at the end of the conflict,” Romney said of his speech, in reference to negotiations between the Obama administration and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki last year that fell through and led to all U.S. troops leaving at the end of 2011.

Obama and Romney disagreed over whether the president supported keeping U.S. troops in Iraq through the agreement.

The Obama administration negotiated with al-Maliki to keep some U.S. presence in Iraq after the war ended to help train Iraqi troops and maintain security, but the two sides were unable to reach an agreement.

Republicans, including Romney, criticized the president after the talks ended and Obama announced all U.S. troops were leaving Iraq at the end of the year.

They’ve continued the criticism as Iraq has seen an increase in violence and had political turmoil as Maliki’s government has sentenced his vice president, a member of the political opposition, to death on terrorism charges.  

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