Iraq’s National Sovereignty Day

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Iraqi policemen in Basra celebrated the withdrawal on Tuesday. A recent spate of high-profile bombings that has killed over 250 people has added to the uncertainty of the handover, but it did not dampen the national pride of the day.
Photo: Haider al-Assadee/European Pressphoto Agency

It should be a victory day for all; but not without cautious optimism, nervous trepidation, and healthy skepticism.

Peter Feaver:

Early reports that General Odierno felt the deadline should slip a bit gave way to more recent reports that he was comfortable meeting the deadline. This reassured me somewhat, until I re-read this assessment by Stephen Biddle. He offers a sober assessment of a number of ways the Iraq project could unravel, and a grim reminder that, as bad as Iraq has been, there are many ways that it could become much worse if we misplay our hand.

And in fact, Biddle intimates that the United States may very well be in the process of misplaying its hand by hewing too rigidly to the SoFA withdrawal schedule. The money quote: “The most effective option for prevention [of renewed violence in Iraq] is to go slow in drawing down the U.S. military presence in Iraq.” Biddle recognizes that slowing the withdrawal would impose costs — strain on the armed forces and, perhaps a greater hurdle, political embarrassment for Obama and for the Maliki government. But he reminds us that letting the positive trajectory in Iraq reverse imposes great costs, too, and thus concludes: “On balance, paying the cost of a slower withdrawal, while expensive, may ultimately be the cheaper approach.”

A reader of Thomas Ricks’ blog sends this:

Despite recent reporting, the area is stable, while still not completely safe. The attacks mentioned in the article are not part of a mounting trend, but are normal and to be expected from time to time in this environment. If we want Iraq to return to normal it will necessarily mean making itself more vulnerable to these kinds of attacks.

But we have taken it as far as Americans can. In my opinion, anything we do now may do more harm than good in delaying the inevitable and reinforcing their, at times, crippling malaise. The only enduring role for Americans is to provide the safety net to prevent complete collapse, chaos, and civil war; three things that I do not believe will happen in any event.”

Here’s hoping the peace is sustainable and that the withdrawal of combat troops from the major cities doesn’t prove premature.

5 Responses to “Iraq’s National Sovereignty Day”

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    And for the “bring ’em home now” crowd:

    As the U.S. military honored the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq and pulled all combat troops from Iraqi cities, leaving Iraqi forces to take the lead, CNN hunk and war correspondent Michael Ware was asked how many troops would be coming home now that they have left Iraqi cities. His answer, “None.”

    CNN: How many troops does this mean will actually be coming home because of the pull out?

    MICHAEL WARE: Betty, the answers very simple: NONE. You’re still gonna have 130,000 US troops based here in the country, though their hands military will be very much be tied by the Iraqi government.


    This doesn’t mean that any of the GIs will be coming home any time soon. In terms of today meaning that there’s any homecomings about to happen, I’m afraid to disappoint, Betty.


    U.S. Forces are now very much in a supporting role. What they’re doing however is called ‘Stability Operations’, making sure the Iraqis don’t get themselves killed in any great numbers….

    How many will be sent to surge into Afghanistan?

    More from Ricks’ commenter:

    Capacity building, hands-off security, and detainee releases all means that the average infantry Marine has been pretty bored this deployment, which is, of course, a good thing. The Marines, to a man, would rather be in Afghanistan a conflict they see as simpler than the legalistic, restrictive environment here. But they have done a terrific job at staying busy, conducting training, and staying active.

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    My brother served in the USMC for two tours in Iraq, he was apart of the successful Surge. Now he is with the Wisconsin Army National Guard and is apart of the 32nd Infantry detailed with the Command Staff as personal security to the Officers.

    Needless to say today was a happy day for him. He is very happy to see the Victory we have achieved in Iraq even if parts of our country refuse to call it a Victory.

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    Thomas Ricks again:

    General Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, gave a press conference Tuesday in which his most significant words might have been missed, because everyone is focusing on U.S. combat formations moving out of the cities. “We’ll be operating in the belts around Baghdad,” Odierno emphasized to reporters.

    To those who watched the surge unfold, that’s an interesting phrase, because it signals that the U.S. strategy in the coming months will be to try to protect Baghdad by cutting off insurgents and militias operating in the fields, towns and palm groves that surround much of the capital. And that was where some of the heaviest fighting took place during the spring and summer of 2007, as “the surge” began. Indeed, of the 21 battalions sent to Iraq as surge forces, about half were deployed in Baghdad and about half around it.

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