Ending Something or Other In Iraq


As noted in Hit and Run's "Morning Links," Obama has made a firm promise to end the military effort in Iraq, thus meaning only 50,000 American troops need to stay. Some perspectives that take our president a little less seriously than he'd like us to, first from the New York Times:

The [death] toll [in Iraq] Tuesday — 26 dead in 8 attacks — was not spectacular for Iraq, where hundreds of people still die each month. But it came amid growing fears that insurgents are regrouping in Baghdad, Diyala, Falluja and elsewhere, eager to capitalize on the prospect of American troops leaving and the dysfunction of a political class that has yet to agree on an Iraqi government, nearly five months after voters went to the polls….

Saud al-Saadi, an eloquent and informed teacher in Sadr City, was aware [that Obama vowed the military effort would be ending]. But, he said, he had heard such pronouncements before, declarations of turning points in America's experience here that seemed to hew to the logic of American politics. The American occupation was declared over before the 2004 presidential election. The two countries signed strategic agreements weeks before the Bush administration ended.

"But until now, to tell you the truth, we haven't grasped our sovereignty," Mr. Saadi said. "There are still American troops here, they still raid houses, we don't have a government that makes its own decisions and the American ambassador still interferes."

And Gareth Porter at Raw Story (originally from IPS News) gives a completely different spin to Obama's announcement of an end in sight in Iraq:

Obama declared in a speech to disabled U.S. veterans in Atlanta that "America's combat mission in Iraq" would end by the end of August, to be replaced by a mission of "supporting and training Iraqi security forces".

That statement was in line with the pledge he had made on Feb. 27, 2009, when he said, "Let me say this as plainly as I can: by Aug. 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end."

In the sentence preceding that pledge, however, he had said, "I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months." Obama said nothing in his speech Monday about withdrawing "combat brigades" or "combat troops" from Iraq until the end of 2011.

Even the concept of "ending the U.S. combat mission" may be highly misleading, much like the concept of "withdrawing U.S. combat brigades" was in 2009.

Under the administration's definition of the concept, combat operations will continue after August 2010, but will be defined as the secondary role of U.S. forces in Iraq. The primary role will be to "advise and assist" Iraqi forces.

An official who spoke with IPS on condition that his statements would be attributed to a "senior administration official" acknowledged that the 50,000 U.S. troops remaining in Iraq beyond the deadline will have the same combat capabilities as the combat brigades that have been withdrawn.

The official also acknowledged that the troops will engage in some combat but suggested that the combat would be "mostly" for defensive purposes.

That language implied that there might be circumstances in which U.S. forces would carry out offensive operations as well.