June 16th, 2014
09:28 PM ET
9 years 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.

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"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. pkMyt1

    There is no way we should be getting in the middle of this fight. These two groups are fighting a religious civil war. There is no logic or negotiations when it comes to religion.

    June 16, 2014 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  2. Pokies 12

    Sir if you want to put your boots on the grown be my guess. Do you not understand that they don't want our help and we are not putting anymore of our soldiers on the ground just to satisfy your GOP nuts. No matter your idea they are still going to do it there way as they have for 3,000 years. What interest oil bull crap tell your oil berons to take a leap.

    June 16, 2014 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  3. rs

    Why would we listen to be these clowns? They confidently announced Iraq Iraq would fall in a matter of weeks in 2003, and that there would be no problems between Shia and Sunni Muslims if Saddam fell.

    No, Iraq asked us to leave- we're gone. There is no fixing this one.

    June 16, 2014 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  4. 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 ?

    June 16, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  5. PtBarnumBoy

    Now here's a guy I be taking advice on Iraq from. NOT

    June 16, 2014 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  6. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    If you feel so strongly, Paul... Why don't you get a few buddies with guns, LEAD them over there and show the world how it's done. After you stop the insurgents, we'll all applaud. Until YOU'RE willing to do so, shut up. You've screwed up enough lives already.

    June 16, 2014 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  7. Mr. Balls

    The mess in Iraq is largely the result of L. Paul Bremer's amateur decisions made after defeating Saddam.

    June 16, 2014 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  8. Sj09

    This person along with Bush, Chaney, Rumsfeld and Rice should have all been tried for lying about WMD. Also the Muslims can fight there own war. What is it with you Republicans who want to police the world. I bet if we left the Middle East they would leave us alone. Once there oil is gone I think the Republicans and there oil cronies will have no interest. Republicans think that our national interest is a stake for what oil to help your coffers.

    June 16, 2014 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  9. Pokies12

    I would rather have high oil prices than anymore of our soldiers getting killed.

    June 16, 2014 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  10. Chris-E...al

    Get em out of there lets come home just let the party start ? lets go sometime PPl have to see and really feel it to believe let er blow .Prepare im done .

    June 16, 2014 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  11. 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.

    June 16, 2014 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  12. 2_indy1600

    Anyone familiar with HR4655: Bill Clinton's Iraq Liberation Act? See the video while you're at it. Sad to see a CNN anchor defending govt position instead of doing her job.

    June 16, 2014 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  13. Sip That Kool Aid, It's All You're Good For.

    What we need, is the determination and dedication to doing the following. Minding our own business. It's this lack thereof, that got us embedded into the country of Iraq in the first place. Now that we've succeeded in making one of the biggest messes the globe has ever seen, we're going to get preached to on how we need to be involved even more. Okay, lets clean up our mess, and get on with life. You have to admit though, we really screwed the pooch on this one.

    June 16, 2014 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  14. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    This is the same Paul Bremer who carried Bush's water when we invaded Iraq on a series of well crafted LIES! He should shut his mouth. Of course, Republicans and sociopaths do not have a conscience.

    June 16, 2014 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  15. Craigtexastar

    Good Job Burnett! This is what journalism should be. Give them facts. Great interview. That paul Beemer is the biggest fake I have seen. He blames Obama but nothing about this role or Bush.

    June 16, 2014 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  16. storm chaser 101

    Get out of iraq and stay out period.its time for the people of iraq to fend for them selves.

    June 16, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  17. Thomas

    Bremer lives in Vermont, and paints rural landscape scenes, perfects his French cooking, and serves on several corporate boards. “I supported the war because I believed, as did the president, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction,” Bremer told msnbc. “And I still support it. I believe the Iraqi people are better off being able to choose their own government.” Withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, Bremer said, has “diminished our standing in the region.

    Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki wanted us to leave ,

    Paul Bremer ,never had a handle on Iraq. He and the Bush administration thought by having elections , all would be worked out . Once again America supported a leader who was anything but.

    June 17, 2014 02:52 am at 2:52 am |
  18. RWB

    The Iraqi government and people did not want us there to begin with! The Iraqi government would not agree to a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), so our Commander in Chief did the RGIHT thing and pulled OUR Armed Forces out! I would hope NO elected official would leave our forces in a foreign, hostile country without a SOFA in place. Without it in place we leave OUR Men and Women who serve OUR country truly defenseless!!!

    June 17, 2014 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  19. RWB

    Correction... The Iraqi government and people did not want us there to begin with! The Iraqi government would not agree to a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), so our Commander in Chief did the RIGHT thing and pulled OUR Armed Forces out! I would hope NO elected official would leave our forces in a foreign, hostile country without a SOFA in place. Without it in place we leave OUR Men and Women who serve OUR country truly defenseless!!!

    June 17, 2014 03:19 am at 3:19 am |
  20. Matt

    You want some advice, good advice wrong at the time as we were in the middle of. Dr Rice opinion about the surge and civil war albeit was never officially declared a civil war was to do nothing and let them kill each other. It was not an option then but it is a viable one now. As we do not have 140,000 boots in the middle of it. The truth was we actually started the civil war using death squads and the South American model to take the heat off our soldiers and withhold sending more and thin out the ranks before we could restore security and put a political process in place. I do not know who didn't have a death squad back in 2005. Moqtada had 9 lives, those around him not much.

    June 17, 2014 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
  21. Iamnotfooled

    The Iraq President would not give our men immunity from any kind of prosecution. President Obama had no choice but to get our men out. I am glad he did. It is their fault (IRAQ) that ISIS is attacking them now, not President Obama's.

    June 17, 2014 03:42 am at 3:42 am |
  22. king

    when bush signed the agreement to get out of iraq in 2012, obama tried to renegotiate the agreement witih malaki, with only one change, and that is to keep our soldiers from malicious sheria law prosecution. malaki said no, and ordered the Americans out. i don't know about the repubs, but i be dammed if i should be subjected to their sheria law trying to protect these people. malaki knew the risk more than any Americans, because this is what they've been dealing with for centuries. these repubs are running around shouting like these Iraqis a bunch of 5th graders, and cannot be trusted to make their own decision in their own sovereign country, then on the same hand shouting about personal responsibility with disadvantage folks in america. they werent running around shouting this crap when George bush signed the agreement to get out of Iraq, but they are shouting like hell when malaki refuse to renegotiate the same contract bush signed, just because Obama ask for imunity agaisnt our soldiers subjecting to sheria laws.

    June 17, 2014 03:52 am at 3:52 am |
  23. can we get alone

    It would be so nice if you would take a little time & explain to people how the house & senate work. There are people that think president Obama has the first & last word. There are people who have nothing good to say.Let's put the blame on the right people. But first let our congressman know stop the hate, & do your jobs. You are to be an example to the old & young. a

    June 17, 2014 04:26 am at 4:26 am |
  24. David Witcraft

    Why should we listen to him? Because his work in Iraq was so successful the first time? Another Military industrial complex guy telling us how to spend more taxpayer money!

    I lived there, in Iran, in the 70s, let me point out some pertinant concepts.
    1) No one in Iraq identifies themselves as "Iraqi", their identity is from their clan or their religion, PERIOD.
    2) They all, passionately hate each other. They are very nice, personable hosts to foreigners, but they can recite a thousand years of atrocities that the others have committed, that MUST be avenged.
    3) Whereas Hussain actually tried to control the whole nation, The post-Hussain government has been all about taking care of the Shiites(the dominant religios group, oppressed under Hussain).

    Sadly, the solution is to stand back, and allow them to murder each other in industrial scale. Only when they decide that it's easier to live with each other than to exterminate each other, will the constant cycle of violence be abated. What started as an American effort to regime change, has now lit off a religious civil war with the Sunnis(backed by Saudi, the Gulf States and Jordan) against the Shiite "crescent"(Syria, southern Iraq and Iran). The conflict may yet attract militants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

    June 17, 2014 04:52 am at 4:52 am |
  25. Tony in Maine

    Only if Bremer puts on a uniform and rides in the lead vehicle.

    My huge question to the pundits from CNN to NBC to ANC – WHY WHY WHY do you insist on giving over the talk shows to Kristol and his traveling puppet show or McCain/Graham? These fools cost us countless lives, money and good will simply to enrich the oil industry and their goal failed. STOP IT!

    June 17, 2014 05:57 am at 5:57 am |
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