News / USA

Iraq, US Challenged as Final US Troop Withdrawal Looms

U.S. Army soldiers from 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, gather for a briefing after arriving at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga. after an 18-hour journey home from a yearlong deployment in Iraq, (File Photo - 04 Dec 2010)
U.S. Army soldiers from 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, gather for a briefing after arriving at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga. after an 18-hour journey home from a yearlong deployment in Iraq, (File Photo - 04 Dec 2010)

The United States declared the end of its combat mission in Iraq in August and is to withdraw its remaining troops by the end of 2011.  But the security problems plaguing the nation nearly eight years after the U.S.-led invasion show no sign of ending soon, calling into question what the U.S. will do.   

Deadlines are not something Iraq or the United States have been very good at meeting.  What was hailed as the end to the U.S. combat mission has been followed by continued U.S. military action, under the nominal command of Iraqi forces.

Even the plan to remove U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities by June 2009 was not implemented.  American troops were at key positions in March during elections for parliament.

So what happens at the end of 2011, when all U.S. troops are set to go?  Charles Dunne is a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington.  

"A lot is going to depend on the United States-Iraq defense relationship going forward," said Dunne.  "The big question here is how many troops is the United States going to leave in Iraq after the end of  2011."

Dunne says there have been no formal talks about a follow-up to the security agreement on an end to the U.S. presence as well as the training of Iraqi soldiers for taking complete control.  

Some in the U.S. military believe the Iraqis are ready to stand up as the U.S. stands down, to paraphrase a favorite line of former President George W. Bush.

Brigadier General Jeffrey Buchanan , spokesman for U.S. Forces-Iraq, says Iraqi forces have maintained security, in recent months especially.

"From the election day through this period of government formation, more than eight months, providing security, manning their posts, and never wavering, even though their chain of command was up to a caretaker government," said Buchanan.

Charles Dunne thinks that does not tell the whole story, in particular, the role of the Sons of Iraq.  Its members belong to the Sunni minority that renounced the insurgency to help the U.S.

 

"About half of these have been taken into government security positions," he said.  "That leaves about another 49,000 out there, not being given permanent jobs, and could be a future source of al-Qaida-in-Iraq recruiting.

Leaders of Iraq's main political blocs, are seen during their meeting in Irbil, a city in the Kurdish controlled north, north of Baghdad, Iraq (File Photo - 08 Nov 2010)
Leaders of Iraq's main political blocs, are seen during their meeting in Irbil, a city in the Kurdish controlled north, north of Baghdad, Iraq (File Photo - 08 Nov 2010)


There is also the issue of the Kurds, ethnically distinct from the Arab majority.  In the north, they have enjoyed relative autonomy through much of the chaos.

But recent talk of self-determination could be a time bomb, especially since land separating Kurdistan from the mainly Arab south is in dispute, as is the oil rich city of Kirkuk.

Daniel Serwer of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies believes this is the biggest threat to Iraqi stability.

"I think we need to worry about making sure that, by the end of 2011, there is a process in motion that will resolve the Arab-Kurdish problems peacefully," he said.

But it is far from certain that the Iraqi government will be able to tackle this issue and others, at least right away.  
The political haggling since the elections has left whatever government emerges with a huge backlog of issues.  While many suggest an inclusive government is ideal, bringing rivals together may pose problems.

"If you have a grab-bag government, with everybody represented, people have to be picked who can work effectively, who can, in effect, act as technocrats," said Dunne. "And I think this is going to be a very tall order."

As the United States steers its mission away from the military and toward the diplomatic, it faces other challenges.

Followers of Moqtada al Sadr, the Iranian-influenced, anti-U.S. cleric, are likely to be players in a new government.  Al Sadr also is not fond of current Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki.

Some analysts say dealing with the Sadrists, however distasteful, is key to the  diplomatic transition and a more stable Iraq.

"I think we stand some chance of getting them to be a somewhat more moderate force than they are today.  And we need to wean them frankly, from Tehran.  And that can only be done by talking to them, not holding them at a distance."

Serwer is concerned that, as the military mission winds down, Americans have begun to forget about Iraq. 

"Iraq is inherently a very important country," he said.  "It is important because of where it is.  It is important because of the role it has played in world history.  It is important because of the oil it has, and because of the neighbors it has."

But he says forgetting Iraq is a mistake America may not be able to make at the end of 2011.

 

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid