Sunday, 18 December 2011

Last U.S. Troops Cross Iraqi Border 7 am December 18th 2011

Just after 7 am on December 18, 2011, the last U.S. troops crossed the Iraq/Kuwait border, marking and end to the war in Iraq, almost nine years after invasion.  The war cost $1 Trillion and over 4500 U.S. troops lost their life.  32,000 were wounded in action and many more carry the mental scars of the war.

The last convoy comprised of 110 vehicles and 500 troops from Fort Hood, Texas crossed as the sun was rising in Iraq.

While most of the soldiers that crossed the border out of Iraq early this morning were still in school, many of us will remember the 24 hour live cable coverage of U.S. leaving Kuwait and racing across the desert toward Baghdad.  While the military mission was quickly accomplished, winning the peace, i.e. establishing infrastructure,  rule of law and a semblance of peaceful co-existence was not planned well.   Saddam Hussein was captured, tried by Iraqis and subsequently executed.

The war took its toll on Americans, U.S. soldiers and their families.   Some would point at a war that was started under false pretenses, while others believe it was the intelligence that was faulty.  President Obama, during his speech at Fort Bragg, NC earlier this week, spoke of a dictator that has been replaced and a free independent Iraq that will determine its own destiny.  How all of that comes out in the wash remains to be seen.

The U.S. military, along with the coalition of the willing did a remarkable job and the surge most certainly turned things around.   Violence has decreased in Iraq and how all of that plays out in the future remains to be seen.  There is still a hotbed of anti-government forces in Fallujah.  Fallujah was the scent of protest this week celebrating the departure of American troops, burning American flags. 

President Obama is taking credit for ending the war, touting that it fulfills one of his campaign promises.   Before you listen to  all the rhetoric of  President Obama ending the War… President George W. Bush  signed an agreement in November 17 2008 that all US Forces were to withdraw from Iraq by 31 December 2011.  Status of Forces Agreement.

President Obama called Iraq "The Dumb War", but when questioned during a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Malaki, he said that history would be the judge.   While it is great to have the troops home by Christmas with  their families, there is some concern that in view of the situation with Iran the withdrawal of all troops may be premature.   Military commanders had recommended that 20,000 to 40,000 troops remain in Iraq to protect U.S. interests.

The quiet exit of the last U.S. forces highlighted the danger and uncertainty that remains in Iraq, even as violence throughout the country has fallen to its lowest level since the 2003 invasion.
The last of the troops left Contingency Operating Base Adder about 2:30 a.m. Kuwait time for the 218-mile trek through the empty, dark desert to the border. In contrast to the U.S. invasion in 2003, the final American convoy, made up of soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, drew little notice from Iraqis. The road from the U.S. base to the border was almost entirely deserted, which was the way the U.S. military wanted it.  Washington Post

Many Middle East experts believe that Iran will make an attempt to assert its influence in Iraq.  Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, have similar concerns.  The Pentagon has shrugged this off by pointing to the fact that enough troops are in the region to deal with any contingency.

As U.S. troops leave the region, it is too early to tell how the military and political dynamics will affect the region.  General Martin E. Dempsey says the U.S. focus on the Middle East and its partner countries there is unwavering.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey is traveling with a USO holiday tour and taking time to meet with his counterparts and officials in several countries, including Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Right now I think there are concerns, maybe some that would rise to a level of skepticism about the future [in the region]," he told reporters who are traveling with him.
"But I think that's why our presence here is so important," the chairman said, "to help ease those concerns and reduce that skepticism."
Dempsey added, "We've got to make sure we maintain our vigilance, our deterrence and our engagement in the Middle East."
The focus for the Defense Department in 21 countries that make up the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility include Afghanistan, Iran and its nuclear aspirations, and regional instability associated with the Arab Spring, the revolutionary wave of protests and violence that erupted Dec. 18, 2010.  War on  Terror News
.As historians take up the mantle of judging the war in Iraq, over 4500 troops have been killed, 32,000 wounded in action and many more scarred for life.   Let's hope that the blood shed by soldiers was not in vane.  Yes the dictator is gone and Iraq is free, but where will be the twists and turns that have not been anticipated?

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