“The time is right for Marines to leave Iraq,” US Marine Corps Commandant General James Conway told reporters today, complaining that the situation in Iraq is “a nation-building kind of environment” and “that is not what we do.” Instead Conway believes the roughly 22,000 Marines in Iraq should be withdrawn, with the vast majority of them heading to Afghanistan for President Obama’s planned escalation there.
Citing the booming drug trade and the Taliban’s safe havens, Gen. Conway believes “when you’ve got those two elements you’ve got potential for a long-term insurgency,” adding “that’s where the Marines ought to be. That’s what we offer the nation.”
Gen. Conway spoke of what he saw as a “growing consensus” on shifting Marines to Afghanistan in early December, but stopped somewhat short of openly calling for the move at the time. He says now that he believes that virtually all of the Marines could be out of Iraq within six months, and that any long-term force in Iraq will be exclusively Army personnel.