June 16th, 2014
09:28 PM ET
3 months ago

Former U.S. envoy to Iraq: U.S. needs special forces on ground in Iraq

(CNN) - Paul Bremer, former presidential envoy to Iraq, said Monday that there will have to be special forces on the ground to fight the insurgency from militant groups in Iraq.

In a tense exchange with CNN's Erin Burnett on "OutFront," Bremer also blamed President Barack Obama for pulling out all forces in 2011 instead of leaving a residual troop presence to ensure security in the region.

"We need to get away from this idea that we're not going to have troops on the ground but we will have, we will have to have special forces and intelligence observers, fire control officers, people identifying targets in those cities so that drones can hit them. You can't subdue a city with fighter jets, you're going to need drones," he said.

Bremer's comments come as U.S. troops head to Iraq following the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's offensive that has seen vast swaths of northern Iraq fall out of government hands.

"After 4,490 lives have been lost in the Iraq war. And $1.7 trillion spent already. How can you advocate any more people, any more lives going to risk for that country?" Burnett said.

Bremer responded: "Because it's in our interest."

"We cannot allow the world's worst terrorist group to get a base of support in a failed nation," he added, warning that instability in Iraq could spell trouble for allies in the region.

Burnett later asked: "What I don't understand is how you can say it was a success after President George W. Bush left office, President Obama was put in a position where he had to do a second surge because Iraq was not stable?"

"Our departure in 2011 was a signal to the Iraqis that we were leaving, we were out and two things then happened - we lost our ability to work closely with the Iraqis on intelligence and training and we lost our political influence," Bremer said,

Bremer called the withdraw of troops a "serious mistake" by Obama and argued that the absence of a U.S. presence put Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in an "impossible situation" to control militant forces.

More from the interview:

CNN's Dana Davidsen contributed to this report.


Filed under: Iraq • President Obama
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Marie MD

    No troops on the ground and the troops we are sending in for Embassy duty we need to get out with those in the Embassy.
    These, thanks to shrub #43, militias are a bloody group and will kill anyone in their way. No more American deaths in Iraq.
    First the shrub and his minions lying about a war then Malacki wanted the US out. Fine, we are out and we should get all Americans out of there.

    June 17, 2014 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  2. Gyrgyl

    –bull. Mo more war.

    June 17, 2014 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  3. an Iowan

    Bremer responded: "Because it's in our interest."
    In other words "because thars oil in that thar country!"

    June 17, 2014 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  4. g

    looks Americans are going to spend another trillion in Iraq buying temporary friends .Saudi-Arabia is not happy

    June 17, 2014 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  5. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Ooh goody! Let's start another war in a country where people have been fighting for 100's of years!! Let's send all of the unfortunate boys over to fight a war where they will either die over there or once they come back home waiting on the VA. Because we all know the rich, entitled boys, like the Romney's won't fight. They'll be too busy repopulating the earth. And when it's over, they'll still be fighting and the GOP will have more than 4 deaths to politicize.

    FIFY

    June 17, 2014 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  6. old age voter

    What did you expect to happen when president Obama announces the date we are leaving! President Obama is certainly not FDR or JFK; president Obama ends (quits) wars; he does not win wars. All of CNN and Erin Burnett need to get their heads out of the presidents’ backside and see the mess president Obama has put us in.

    June 17, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    "Our departure in 2011 was a signal to the Iraqis that we were leaving, we were out and two things then happened – we lost our ability to work closely with the Iraqis on intelligence and training and we lost our political influence," Bremer said,
    ---------------------------------------–
    Gee, no mention of Malaki, at all.

    No mention of the fact that not working with the Iraqis is exactly what the Malaki government wanted. No mention of the fact that the withdrawal was a result of a SOFA treaty that was negotiated and signed by Pres. Bush in 2008. No mention of the fact that Malaki has been highly resistant to the idea of an inclusive government ever since he was first installed.

    No mention of the fact that Malaki did not want to sign a new SOFA treaty to extend the U.S. presence beyond 2011. Had we simply stayed, which many on the right have suggested that we could have done, then the U.S. presence in the Iraq was technically an invading force. Malaki wanted us out, so that he could have a free hand to suppress people.

    Just blame Pres. Obama for the outcome of a treaty signed by Pres. Bush.

    June 17, 2014 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  8. Lizzie

    You cannot force people into the 21st century when they like to live in the 10th.

    June 17, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  9. Anonymous

    "I got a feeling that these dances now will be frequently requested no matter where I am – the next wedding, the next bar mitzvah," Christie said."

    If Jimmy Fallon can make Chris Christie do things he ought to know better than do, just think what a corrupt staff might get him to agree to do as well. Unfortunately, Mr. Christie is so wrapped in his ego he can't seem to control himself politically or otherwise.

    June 17, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  10. Silence DoGood

    @Marie MD
    No troops on the ground and the troops we are sending in for Embassy duty we need to get out with those in the Embassy.
    These, thanks to shrub #43, militias are a bloody group and will kill anyone in their way. No more American deaths in Iraq.
    First the shrub and his minions lying about a war then Malacki wanted the US out. Fine, we are out and we should get all Americans out of there.
    -----------–
    Everyone always says Bush and WMD in one breath but it goes way beyond that. Remember the news and investigative reports all based on easy to access data: He lied over and over and over. The deeper he got the more he lied and the more people died. Not the just the 4000 US solders (when was that war crime trial?) but countless 1000's of non-US people, all dead. How conservative ranters can just pretend this did not happen astounds me no end.

    June 17, 2014 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  11. Dead Bear

    This man is to blame for the entire situation and all he can do is scream "IT'S OBAMA'S FAULT!!!". How Republican of him?!... If people like Paul Bremer and John McCain want American troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future, fine. Send their kids and grandkids over there first. And if they're not too busy doing nothing while still collecting a paycheck, they might want to consider making sure the troops are properly equipped this time around because I'd really hate to see someone near and dear to them come home from Bush and this idiot's mess maimed and disfigured and have to deal with the VA that the GOP lawmakers cut funding for.

    June 17, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  12. Silence DoGood

    @Lizzie
    You cannot force people into the 21st century when they like to live in the 10th.
    ----------
    Whoa. For a minute there I didn't know if you were referring to religious gun-toting militants in Iraq or in the US.

    June 17, 2014 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  13. Lily

    No one is going to send our kids to fight with Sunnis who are beheading their fellow Citizens. If Congress will do, we will vote you all out come November. The memories of Cantor are still afresh.

    June 17, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  14. Anonymous

    "we lost our ability to work closely with the Iraqis on intelligence and training and we lost our political influence," Bremer said,"

    From recent news accounts, I get the feeling that the Iraqi's don't really want to fight. It's not as if 30,000 of them put their hands in the air, took off their uniforms, and ran away. The entire war was a freaking lost cause to begin with.

    June 17, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  15. Leeman

    He made a big deal out of leaving and now he has to redeploy. I am sure he was probably told numerous times we would need a smaller troop presence for a longer period of time. As far as those who say we are going because of the oil that combined with that group eventually doing something in the states in a major concern. We have plenty of oil now but Iraq holds a major world reserves so unless they act its only going to keep rising. Its definitely going to impact those working from paycheck to paycheck because of higher oil prices.

    June 17, 2014 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  16. Malory Archer

    Anonymous
    I saw this exchange and Erin Burnett was not only rude, but hostile to Mr. Bremer. She clearly wasn't looking for answers, she was looking for a verbal confrontation and ratings. If she thinks she can bully her way into being a "noticed" reporter, she had better think again. Many people find her style a real turn-off, and does nothing to add any clarity to the discussion. If she worked for me, I would fire her for this exchange.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Interesting. I saw bremmer take that EXACT rude, hostile stance during an interview on another network. Perhaps Ms. Burnett caught wind of that interview and decided to take the upper hand before HE could start insulting her the way he did the interviewer from the other network. wolfowicz is so rude and nasty that I have to wonder if he's got early-stage dementia!

    June 17, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  17. forest gump

    Old age, and completely clueless! Your one pathetic sounding rube! But didn't George say mission accomplished? Pick and choose your reality, seek help immediately

    June 17, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  18. Malory Archer

    Isn't it ironic how the biggest cheerleaders for getting us into another quagmire in Iraq (or anywhere in the ME for that matter) are the same crew who don't believe that our troops deserve to be rescued if they should become prisoners of those whose nations we invaded and are fighting against?

    June 17, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  19. rs

    old age voter

    What did you expect to happen when president Obama announces the date we are leaving! President Obama is certainly not FDR or JFK; president Obama ends (quits) wars; he does not win wars. All of CNN and Erin Burnett need to get their heads out of the presidents’ backside and see the mess president Obama has put us in.
    _____________________________________
    You must be getting senile. Mr. Bush started that process. It's fitting too inasmuch as Cheney once said Iraq was like the Pottery Barn sign (you break it, you bought it). Well, the neocons on the Right certainly broke it- but fortunately our installed puppet Mr. Malaki wouldn't grant our troops immunity from local law, and asked us to leave. It's their problem, sir, not ours.

    June 17, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  20. Lynda/Minnesota

    "You cannot force people into the 21st century when they like to live in the 10th."

    Indeed. Nor can you force people to fight for themselves and their future if they don't want to. Whatever happens in Iraq is the people of Iraq's "business" not ours.

    It should never been thought otherwise.

    June 17, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  21. bcrunner

    Oh my God!! The same stupid people who took us to war, created the mess, now want us to go back!! Are they out of their minds? Actually, the mayor of London said it best when he said yesterday that Tony Blair should just shut up!!

    June 17, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  22. rs

    Chris-E...al

    Yes 150 plus marines showd up in Iraq on the ground already those boots count to me . If dems speak expect
    a flip flop goose step with a lie on top when n0t even necessary or arguable ? Why ?
    __________________________
    Sir, they are there to protect Bush's giant embassy complex (the U.S.'s largest). You know, keeping those State Department people safe? You wouldn't want ANOTHER Benghazi now, would you?

    June 17, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  23. rs

    Gotta love Republicans- we're in debt up to our eyeballs because of their off-book wars and wealthy-welfare, but they want us to go back into Iraq (one of our nation's longest wars) to try to fix that mess again at the cost of untold $trillions and American lives. But, they will not vote one a thin dime to protect the retirement packages of Detroit City employees and retirees- never mind their filibustering (twice) the expansion of the VA in the last year.
    Yup that's the good ol' patriotic GOP for you.

    June 17, 2014 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  24. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    How about we put you on the ground in Iraq Bremer. Your "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him" speech is one of the very reasons this is happening now. Saddam ruled with an iron fist. I don't care how brutal of a dictator he was. He kept our enemies in check. You took him out of the game and patted yourselves on your backs as if you accomplished something. You did the complete opposite. NO BOOTS ON THE GROUND!!!!

    June 17, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  25. Malory Archer

    Chris-E...al

    Yes 150 plus marines showd up in Iraq on the ground already those boots count to me . If dems speak expect
    a flip flop goose step with a lie on top when n0t even necessary or arguable ? Why ?

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    They guard our embassies worldwide. IMO, the marines on the ground and additional logistics staff being sent should have one mission, and one mission only: Declare Threatcon Echo, escort embassy staff to waiting planes, and pull the plane's steps up behind them as the plane is taxiing down the runway!

    June 17, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
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