Withdrawal Begins

I started blogging in the aftermath of 9/11 and leadup to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I viewed Iraq as a front in a much larger conflict, and today we pulled out troops back from cities in Iraq and left the defense of the Iraqi people to Iraqi forces.

U.S. combat troops, under agreement with the Iraqi government, abandoned the country’s cities today amid public celebrations and private concerns over Iraq’s future security.

The government declared today a national holiday and official cars were decorated with streamers and flowers. Revellers took to the streets to toot on trumpets and beat drums while martial music and history documentaries filled television screens. U.S. military officers visited Iraqi bases in several regions to wish their counterparts well.

“We are behind you,” Col. Ryan Gonsalves, commander of U.S. troops near the northern city of Kirkuk, assured officers of the Iraqi 12th Army Division. A luncheon and dancing marked the occasion. “It’s their day, their sovereignty,” he said later in an interview.

In a televised ceremony in Baghdad, Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki guaranteed the government could keep its citizens safe. “Those who think that Iraqis are not able to protect their country and that the withdrawal of foreign forces will create a security vacuum are making a big mistake.” The country has been hit by a series of car and suicide bombs that killed about 250 people in the past two weeks.

I’m worried but hopeful; worried because the impetus for this was political – both in the US and Iraq – more than based on military conditions. I’m hopeful because conflicts end when the political becomes more important than the military.

The next few months will tell; going back will be harder, militarily and politically, than staying – which is why I worry. But you know, having made these decisions, now is the time to hope.

So that’s what I’ll be doing.
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One thought on “Withdrawal Begins”

  1. _”I’m worried but hopeful; worried because the impetus for this was political – both in the US and Iraq – more than based on military conditions. I’m hopeful because conflicts end when the political becomes more important than the military.”_

    That distills it down pretty well. Consider the Iraqi action in Basra, militarily it was considered risky, but politically the payoff was resounding. As T.E. Lawrence famously said, better they should do it tolerably than we should do it perfectly.

    There is also a point of diminishing returns, i’m not sure how much lower we can expect the violence to go in places like Kirkuk and Mosul. We don’t want to get back into wack-a-mole mode.

    Finally, I still can’t help but remind us of probably the biggest opportunity we continue to miss- repairing Iraq’s utilities, specifically electricity. That’s been a debacle that has really just turned into an embarrassment. I hope somebody learns a lesson from that- this type of warfare is about finding ways to substitute firepower for other resources. Keeping angry people in the desert cool and lit is a wonderful way to do that, and we’re the damn USofA, greatest industrial powerhouse in history but we couldn’t make much progress in electrifying Iraq in the better part of a decade. Thats abysmal. Europe was bombed into little pieces and we got them back on their feet. No excuse on that one, I shudder to think how many Americans and Iraqi lives could have been spared had some of the hotheads thought sitting home in the cool would have beat running gun battles in the heat.

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