Sunday, December 14, 2008
U.S. troops figure to stay in Iraqi cities long after June
Anyone who really thought the United States was going to pull all of its troops from Iraqi cities by the end of June was kidding themselves, no matter what the new security pact says. There really should be no controversy -- U.S. troops are going to stay in combat roles wherever and whenever U.S. and Iraqi officials think they should, and no negotiated agreement is going to change that. The outraged reaction to Saturday's statement by U.S. Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is naive, uninformed or both. Odierno said Saturday that some U.S. troops could remain in Iraqi cities after July 1, and an Iraq government spokesman said U.S. troops could stay even beyond the pact's 2011 final cutoff date, according to the Reuters international news service. Odierno said troops could remain if they are supporting Iraqi forces rather than serving in combat, but that is just legalese. The United States has not invested hundreds of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq just to leave before the country has been stabilized; Iraqis themselves have not sacrificed hundreds of thousands of lives building democratic institutions just to collapse into anarchy after U.S. troops leave. A spokesman for Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki got it right last week when he said U.S. forces could stay beyond 2011. Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh said in Washington that Iraq's security forces could need as long as 10 years to be ready to take over from U.S. troops. Of course, al-Maliki's office disavowed Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh's statement as a "personal opinion," but that was likely for consumption by Iraqis still outraged by the U.S. occupation. The security pact, which was approved by Iraq's parliament last month, still must be put to a national referendum next year.