Gates: Clinton turned back on Iraq surge to win Democrats’ votes

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Sen. Hillary Clinton dropped her support for the U.S. campaign in Iraq for political reasons, according to a new autobiography by then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates.

In a meeting with Gates and President Barack Obama, “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary,” Gates writes in “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.”

Despite his turnabout, Democratic primary voters backed Obama, who also opposed the successful 2007 surge.

Three thousand five hundred U.S. troops were killed in the campaign to help Iraqis elect their own government. Violence has sharply increased since U.S. forces were withdrawn in 2010.

Gates’ comment about Clinton, which was published in The Washington Post, prompted an immediate GOP pile-on.

“Secretary Gates confirms what so many American have already known,” said statement from Stop Hillary PAC, which was formed to undermine Clinton’s positive poll ratings.

“Hillary Clinton is disingenuous and deceitful. She will do anything, including mislead the country by putting her political ambitions ahead of the safety of Americans at home and abroad,” said the statement.

“From Whitewater to Benghazi and now the truth about her opposition to the troop surge, Hillary continues to show her true colors and why Americans can’t trust her now or as President,” it said.

“We’re hearing Hillary Clinton made a decision based on politics. Which one of her Super PACs will respond,” asked a milder statement from Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman at the Republican National Committee.

Gates, however, does also offer some compliments to Clinton, who has the inside track to be the Democratic nominee for the 2016 election.

“I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world,” wrote Gates, who quit the Pentagon job in 2011.

President George W. Bush launched the surge counter-offensive in 2007, which broke the resistance from the loose alliance of Sunni tribes, Saddam Hussein’s leftover henchmen and al-Qaida jihadis.

The offensive succeeded, partly because it prompted many Sunni tribes to distance themselves from al-Qaida, which was trying to spark a bloody civil war by killing as many Shia civilians as possible.

One major cause for that split was the U.S. military’s high-tech ability to neutralize any gathering of rebels. That military power protected the elected Shia government while it used various conventional and unconventional methods to find and kill Saddam’s gunmen and al-Qaida’s jihadis.

Since 2010, however, Obama has withdrawn all U.S. force from the country, and al-Qaida has rebuilt itself. Last week, its forces occupied the largest cites in Iraq’s Western, Sunni-dominated region that butts up against war-torn Syria.

After the takeover, administration officials have repeatedly said they won’t be providing any soldiers, trainers, commandos or specialized soldiers to Iraq’s government.

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