CINCINNATI (TDB) -- While campaigning for Sen. Hillary Clinton in Iowa, former president Bill Clinton said he believes the U.S. should end its military involvement in Iraq. He pledged that his spouse would pull most American troops from the country, but also favors leaving a "small number" behind to separate the Kurds and Turks in northern Iraq. The remaining U.S. force would be assigned peacekeeping duties, and Bill Clinton's comment seemed to open the door to some kind of long-term military presence on Iraqi soil during a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Bill Richardson sees Hillary Clinton flip-flopping on Iraq as the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses rapidly approach. Richardson contends she is trying to wiggle out of hawkish statements, and that she has no intention of ending U.S. involvement any time soon. Bill Clinton offered the "small number" description after Richardson's blast. The former president's words were captured by Kirk Klocke, news editor at the Charles City Press, a newspaper that serves the city of 7,800 in northern Iowa. He wrote that Bill Clinton made it clear Hillary would leave a military contingent on the ground in Iraq:
"However, he said if elected president, Sen. Clinton plans to keep some troops in Iraq to maintain peace. 'The presence of a small number of Americans there reduces the chance that they (the Kurds and Turks) will go to war with each other again.'"
Bill Clinton said he favored withdrawing most forces from Iraq.
"The longer we stay now, the longer we will delay the day when Sunni and the Shia will have to make their own agreement to hold their country together or not. As long as they think we're going to be there, they can just keep trying to negotiate for a better deal."
Hillary Clinton has talked about leaving what has been called a residual force of America troops in Iraq. Those comments made news around the world earlier this year. But it is not clear what she actually intended to do so if she reaches the White House. Her husband seems to have settled the issue -- some U.S. forces would remain, there would be no timetable for withdrawal, and the military mission would not be described as a permanent presence.