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Bill Clinton Urges 'Substantial Drawdown' in Iraq

Former President Bill Clinton calls for a major reduction in U.S. forces in Iraq this year.
Former President Bill Clinton calls for a major reduction in U.S. forces in Iraq this year.

While there has been some U.S. military success in Iraq, a "substantial drawdown" of American forces is needed this year, former President Bill Clinton says. U.S. troops are so stretched that it would be difficult for them to respond in the event of a national security emergency, he tells NPR.

In an interview with Renee Montagne to promote his new book, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World, Clinton acknowledges that an upcoming report from Gen. David Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, is likely to cite some successes stemming from the increase earlier this year in U.S. troops in Iraq.

"In at least two places in the Sunni section of Iraq there has been progress using the surge American forces to work with Sunni groups that previously fought Americans," Clinton says.

He says it's no surprise "that now that we've provided more forces there, and we're following a local agenda rather than our own, there's been some success."

But that success is not sustainable, Clinton says.

"We don't have the forces to do that every place in the country," he says.

The war in Iraq "is fundamentally a political conflict that has to be resolved by political means, bringing all the people into the system who are willing to play by the rules and obey the rules of law and give up violence," Clinton says.

Keeping high troop levels in place can hurt U.S. national interests, he adds.

"I think for our own national security we almost have no choice but to have substantial troop drawdown in Iraq this year because we already have badly overstressed the Army, the Marine Corps, the Guard and the Reserves. If we had a genuine national security emergency in this country tomorrow that required ground forces, they would have to be supplied by the Navy and the Air Force."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.