Withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Iraq

By the end of 2011, almost all 40,000 U.S. soldiers will be back in their home country.

Eight years after George W. Bush’s 2003 announcement of the end of the military mission in Iraq, the cities by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are still being shaken by numerous bloody attacks. At the beginning of January, full responsibility for the country’s safety will go to the Iraqi Armed Forces. U.S. military leadership has been trying for months now to persuade the politicians not to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq. Gen. Lloyd Austin, the U.S. commanding general, insisted on keeping 14,000–18,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq in 2012; Leon Panetta, the recently nominated secretary of defense, decreased the number to a few thousand. But even such a scenario seems impossible to achieve.

Dispute Over Immunity

According to CNN, soldiers who were anticipating staying in Iraq are already packing their bags. Their families were told that the troops are going back home earlier because the U.S. and Iraqi governments cannot come to an agreement on the issue of U.S. military immunity. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki explained in numerous interviews that it would be impossible to give such protection. The ones to blame for this situation are the Shiite radicals who would not agree with having any foreign military in their country. If a new solution to the problem is not reached, the 2008 agreement will stay in force. It states that by the end of 2011, all U.S. troops must leave Iraq. White House and Pentagon spokesmen confirm that negotiations with the Iraqi government are still ongoing, but U.S. military leadership stresses the fact that any sudden change in the decision would be impossible because the long and complicated process of troop withdrawal has already begun. An anonymous White House insider confirmed to the Associated Press that at the beginning of 2012, there will be only about 160 U.S. soldiers in Baghdad; they will be stationed in the American embassy. “The decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq can be seen as a clear victory for Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army. They were attacking American soldiers to force them to leave the country,”* says Brian Williams of the University of Massachusetts.

The Hawks Give a Warning

Some Republicans are afraid that such a decision will make the sacrifice of 4,400 U.S. soldiers’ lives a waste. “I think there is a greater risk of renewed violence,” warns Sen. John McCain. This Vietnam War veteran and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee accuses Barack Obama’s administration of ineffectual negotiations with the Iraqi government, and he is convinced that 13,000 U.S. soldiers should still stay in Iraq. Yet for Barack Obama, who is now hoping for re-election, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq gives him a chance to reduce the deficit and fulfill his pre-election promise. His decision is strongly supported by many Democrats, but also by Republicans such as Ron Paul, who is fighting for his own presidential nomination. According to The National, U.S. troop withdrawal evokes neither joy nor fear in Iraq. Millions of Iraqi people saw the U.S. military as hostile occupiers. At the same time, some citizens considered them to be a buffer between various ethnic and religious groups. “Al-Maliki’s government and many Iraqis realize more and more that they need American support to have helicopters, military intelligence, unmanned aircraft, instructors and a rapid reaction force,” stresses Professor Williams.* He believes that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq will facilitate the activities of al-Qaida and Shiite groups. On the other hand, as Professor Williams later adds, having no Americans in Iraq may lead to a reduction of violence because there will be no target to attack. “Al-Maliki will be able to say that he is an independent prime minister of an Islamic government, not a puppet in the hands of the American army,” notes Williams.*

Polish Army Early Withdrawal

Polish troops also took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom, which began in March 2003. Among the soldiers fighting in the first phase of the operation were GROM commanders [GROM is one of five special forces units of the Polish Armed Forces]. Six months later, the government sent to Iraq another 2,500 soldiers to protect the Polish stabilization zone. Both politicians and businessmen were hoping for the great profits that Poland could receive from Iraqi oil. When our mission ended in 2008, most Poles were disappointed with the lack of economic benefits. The operation in Iraq cost Poland the lives of 22 Polish soldiers, two journalists, three ex-commandos working as security guards and one officer of the Government Protection Bureau.

*Translator’s Note: These quotes, while accurately translated, could not be verified.

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