As Obama Administration officials and a willing mainstream media report that yesterday was the end of the Iraq War it would likely surprise many that 56,000 US troops remain on the ground engaging in combat operations.
But it seems like the spin is even more surprising to the Pentagon leadership, as Gen. David Petraeus was pressed today on whether this was the right time to have left Iraq, and he said what he most likely wasn’t supposed to say.
“First of all we are not leaving,” Petraues insisted, adding that “there are 50,000 US troops that are remaining in Iraq” and that they retain an “enormous capability.” It is a capability that is tough to reconcile with the official story that these are all just trainers.
Gen. Petraeus could perhaps be forgiven for not being on message. After all, he is still getting his bearings as the new commander in Afghanistan and probably didn’t have time to catch the news on MSNBC.
But then Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell declared, on MSNBC, “I don’t think anybody has declared the end of the war as far as I know.” He perhaps missed the headlines across the American press declaring exactly that, and the number of Obama Administration officials crowing about the “promise kept” to end the war.
President Obama’s decision to select yesterday as the official “victory” day for Iraq appears to have taken a lot of people by surprise, not the least being all those troops still in Iraq and still fighting. But the Pentagon’s break with them, admitting that the war is still going on while the media-friendly celebration is still going on, certainly complicates the already ill-defined message.