Yesterday was quite the experience, sitting in a room surrounded by my Iraqi National Police counterparts tuned into CNN watching reports saying that there were no more US troops in any of Iraq’s cities, towns and villages. We watched the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki, give a speech declaring that this is truly a great day for Iraq, National Sovereignty Day. It was hailed as VI day (Victory in Iraq) by the international media. I am pretty sure they may have their story wrong. I can look around from my Joint Security Station, and still see plenty of built up areas, factories, houses, and markets surrounding us. Thus it was quite surreal to read and watch numerous reports declaring all US forces are out of the Iraqi villages and towns and wonder exactly where I am.
With that being said, June 30th certainly is a big day for the fledgling Government of Iraq. They now, more than ever before truly are going to begin taking the lead in all operations. We will be here to support them, when they request it. However, I wonder just how our US operations will change in the days and weeks to come. Will we hunker down in our Joint Security Stations or will the Iraqi’s request us to go out and help them with operations on a semi-regular basis? All of this remains to be seen. For now though, the Iraqi Security Forces have the lead in securing Baghdad, we are simply playing a supporting role, and that in and of itself is a startling accomplishment.
Is the War in Iraq over? In a word, no. There will still be more US soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice in support of this effort. There will still be hundreds of thousands of US troops who spend a year away from their loved ones in support of this effort. The American taxpayer will still fund this effort with billions of dollars. The Iraqi Government will have to continue to work hard to increase its capacity to provide basic services. The Iraqi Security Forces still have insurgents left to root out. The Iraqi people still have National Elections before them this fall as an opportunity to strengthen democracy’s tenuous hold here. International business still needs to come in, in a big way, to develop Iraqi oil fields and bring better jobs and infrastructure. Reports of US Forces withdrawal from the cities may well be overblown, however I am hopeful that yesterday was a major milestone in the long road to a sustainable victory in Iraq.