Withdrawal from Iraq positive step forward
Shortly after taking office, Barack Obama announced his plan to transfer full military responsibility to Iraq by the end of August. He has since lived up to this promise and has completed a troop withdrawal that has removed 120,000 soldiers, reducing American troop numbers to 50,000 on schedule within the last days of the month.
This is one of the most significant achievements he has made since entering office, and he will probably be remembered as the President who ended the folly in Iraq started by George W. Bush and his neoconservative cronies as a result.
With the cost of the War in Iraq standing at $750 billion, give or take, and the national debt at an all time high of $13 trillion, the United States really needed a break.
Data from the Congressional Budget office suggests that the reduction of troop numbers in Iraq would only save $67 billion in the next two years. This is because costs associated with the war such as the funding of defence health programs have exceeded the cost of troop deployments.
Nonetheless, the United States should not see these costs rise any more due to such a massive troop withdrawal. Even more positively, the U.S. may yet shed some of its image as an imperialist power that seeks to police the world and gain back some of its reputation.
However, the pullout has not been met without difficulty. At least 265 security personnel, including but not limited to the Iraqi military, police and government-allied fighters, have been killed from June through August. This is in comparison to the 180 killed in the previous five months.
There is no doubt that the sudden rise in deaths has been due to the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Al-Qaida insurgents are clearly trying to test the Iraqi Security Forces’ ability to defend Iraq and most importantly trying to send the message to Iraqis that they are not capable of defending their country on their own.
However, with the massive amount of funding and assistance that has been provided by the United States at every level and every step of the way, the Iraqi Security Forces are quite ready for what will truly become their war.
The United States has rebuilt the Iraqi Army in its own image and has been training it almost immediately after they took power away from Saddam Hussein more than five years ago.
A Staff College consisting of 300 instructors was also opened back in September 2005 to train officers. Currently, the Iraqi Army stands at 17 divisions with a total of 200,000 troops. And as of October 2005, the Iraqi Army has 90 battalions trained well enough to be deployed independently without the assistance of the U.S. military.
There is no reason for Iraqis to cower in the face of these difficulties. Despite the current pullout of American troops, Iraq is in a strong position to assume more independence and sovereignty with the help of its modernized military.
“The Iraqi army and police… are fighting hard for their country,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a Brookings Institution scholar. “They’re doing pretty well. They can’t stop every act like this.”
Iraq’s Prime Minister, who has from the beginning of his tenure sought to distance himself from the United States, not surprisingly, has also been very supportive of the pullout.
“With the execution of the troop pullout, our relations with the United States have entered a new stage between two equal, sovereign countries,” said Nouri al-Maliki in a televised address.
There is no doubt that Iraqis are anxious for the opportunity to govern themselves more freely and to have more control of their own future.
This decision to pull out is most definitely a step in the right direction. There may be disagreement over whether it was the optimal time to do so, but its necessity and eventuality cannot be questioned.