Seven years and five months after the U.S.-led invasion, the last American combat brigade has departed Iraq on Thursday, ahead of President Barack Obama’s Aug. 31 deadline for ending U.S. combat operations there.
The American presence in Iraq is far from over. There are still another 6000 troops which will be leaving by the end of August. Only a transitional force of 50,000 U.S. troops is scheduled to remain. According to the White House, this force will not be involved in active combat but will “train and advise Iraqi Security Forces; conduct partnered and targeted counter-terrorism operations (if requested); and protect ongoing U.S. civilian and military efforts.” Per an agreement with the Iraqi government, Obama announced that the U.S. is to maintain this force until a planned complete withdrawal of forces from the country by the end of 2011.
So the U.S. death toll – at least 4,415 by Pentagon count as of Wednesday – may not yet be final. The cost in American dollars to support the 50,000 troops remaining in Iraq will most definitely continue.
Why is it necessary to keep such a large contingent of “advisors and trainers” in Iraq. There are only 28,500 American troops currently stationed in South Korea. To leave our military personnel to serve as targets of opportunity for insurgents and terrorists is a mistake. It puts the military in the same basic position as Vietnam in 1965 after President Lyndon Johnson sent Marines to protect the American “advisors and trainers” along with the support personnel in that country.
The White House continues to assure us that the remainder of American forces should be withdrawn by the end of next year. I suspect there could be an unsaid “unless…” at the end of that statement. These men and women have already done the job our nation asked them to do. Then they did more.
It is time to bring the troops home and let Iraqi problems be handled by Iraqis.