“Hopefully they’ve learned,” Jindal told the 2014 Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) Forum in Washington.
“The biggest mistake they made in Iraq quite frankly was to obey a political schedule and timeline as opposed to listening to the military commanders, the advisers on the ground, who continued to caution them about this withdrawal.”
Jindal, who may potentially run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, said he understands the appeal of bringing all the troops home.
“I get it, I get the domestic political pressures, I get why it’s popular to want to bring every man and woman in uniform home – but without leaving a residual force, without leaving some kind of force that could respond, we created a vacuum.”
In 2011 the U.S. and Iraq held talks about retaining a number of U.S. troops in that country beyond the Dec. 31, 2011 withdrawal deadline. But the negotiations broke down over the issue of legal jurisdiction for U.S. personnel, and plans for an ongoing training and counterterrorism force were abandoned.
Jindal said the U.S. had as a result diminished its ability to pressure the sectarian Nouri al-Maliki government, and ISIS had “metastasized into this transnational threat.”
“Think about how different it would have been, if instead of just listening to a political timeline, we had actually done what our commanders, what folks were advising on the ground,” Jindal said.
“But remember, this was an administration that was so eager to announce that al-Qaeda was defeated, that we were done. And again, I get it, as a bumper sticker it’s very attractive to say we’re only going to do nation-building at home. We’re going to retreat from the rest of the world.”
Jindal said what happened in Iraq was a good, but tragic, example “of what happens when America unilaterally withdraws and creates a void. Bad things happen. We saw that in Iraq, hopefully they’ve learned the lesson in Afghanistan.”
After a lengthy delay the new Afghan government in late September signed an agreement governing the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of this month.
The agreement provides the legal framework for two post-2014 missions – training and advising the Afghan National Security Forces and targeting the remnants of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Obama announced last May that 9,800 troops would remain from the beginning of next year, reduced to half that number by a year later. By the end of 2016 all will be gone apart from an embassy security component.
Along with the U.S. troops next year, a further 2,200 or so troops from other countries will be deployed under a new NATO mission named Resolute Support.
Jindal said that even in cases where the administration does have a timeline in mind, there is no need to alert the world, including America’s enemies.
“I’m not sure why we unilaterally need to announce that to the enemy, to the rest of the world: ‘By the way, don’t worry, we will leave at this date certain. By the way, we’re taking armed forces off the table.’ That’s fine if internally we made that decision, but there’s no reason to tell an enemy what we will or will not do.”