As an indication of the country the United States is leaving behind, for security reasons the last soldiers made no time for goodbyes to Iraqis with whom they had become acquainted. To keep details of the final trip secret from insurgents—or Iraqi security officers aligned with militias—interpreters for the last unit to leave the base called local tribal sheiks and government leaders on Saturday morning and conveyed that business would go on as usual, not letting on that all the Americans would soon be gone.
Source: Mother Jones
The last U.S. troops rumbled into Kuwait aboard their armored vehicles after a grueling 24 hour trip out of Iraq. No shots were fired on this mission however and the troops making the journey know that they won’t be back to the place they have come to know over nine years of fighting they endured there. While leaders of both the United States and Iraq preach that Iraq is a safer place and is now capable of defending themselves many are holding their breath as the worlds most powerful military leaves a place that was the deadliest war in decades.
What started as a war to remove Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction (which were never found and never existed) ended as war against Al Qaeda and insurgents. After the success of the surge however the war changed pace as the fighting died down and the United States quickly began training Iraq’s forces and rebuilding its vital infrastructure. The war, likened to Vietnam, was both unpopular at home and within Iraq and prompted repeated calls from all sides to bring the troops home.
While Generals and the Secretary of Defense had wanted to leave a force of around 15,000 Americans in Iraq the Iraqi Parliament flexed their diplomatic muscle for the first time to restore their sovereignty. President Obama was able to fulfill a campaign promise to end the war and in doing so he will have more resources to fight the war in Afghanistan which is winding down as well. Some politicians have criticized the decision namely failed Presidential candidate John McCain but most feel that it’s about damn time our men and women come home.
Around a million troops have spent at least one Christmas in Iraq but this year those currently deployed will be home with their families.
Only around 150 troops will remain in Iraq attached to the largest embassy in the world in a training and cooperation role as well as embassy security. It is estimated that several thousand contractors will remain in Iraq for various roles including security of diplomatic personnel and the State department will have various outposts throughout the country to hopefully ensure that outside pressure from Iran doesn’t carry any weight.
Iran not IEDs or insurgents is the biggest threat as America makes its withdrawal. Iran has been providing weapons, training and munitions to Iraqi insurgents for years but now officials fear that Iran will take a more active role in stirring the melting pot of religious factions within Iraq. The long suppressed Shi’ite majority in Iraq has risen to power and the Shi’ite’s have close ties to both Iran and Syria. Sectarian violence in 2006-2007 was the biggest cause of casualties in Iraq and the sharing of power between the 3 dominant religious groups in Iraq hasn’t stopped sectarian clashes.
With all of that in mind we must remind ourselves that we ousted a brutal dictator, set up a diplomatic government, set up the first elections and have not only rebuilt their armed forces but have done so to a point where they are more than capable of defending themselves. We had a responsibility to help them rebuild and we have met that commitment. You can only help a child learn to walk for so long before they must walk on their own. Iraq is at the point where it can run smoothly and independently of the United States. It is time for us to let them decide their fate. While the mission accomplished banner was raised years ago this time the mission is truly accomplished.Source: Reuters