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Iraqis Unmoved by US Pull-out

The withdrawal of American troops from Iraq June 30th was celebrated with an almost-hysterical show of joy on the streets by law enforcement officers. However, according to the Associated Press, National Sovereignty Day passed without revelry among civilian Iraqis, many of whom recognize that 130,000 troops will remain until 2011, ostensibly.

The Associated Press reports,

“The celebrations were contrived, almost like a farce,” said Salman Hassan, who runs an electrical supplies store in eastern Baghdad. “The Americans did not go anywhere far, they are on the outskirts of our cities.”

Like many others in Baghdad, Hassan says he will not remember the Americans kindly. But, ironically, he says he finds comfort in the fact that the Americans remain close.

“Our forces are not ready yet to take sole responsibility. They need two more years to be ready to defend us.”

Iraq’s security forces, which number 650,000, have spent years in the shadow of their better equipped and more disciplined U.S. mentors, learning counterinsurgency tactics, intelligence gathering techniques and combat skills.

But the Iraqis continue to struggle with logistics and professional conduct. It is not uncommon to see soldiers at checkpoints speaking on their mobile phones or dozing off while sitting aside in the shade.

They also lack reliable networks for fuel distribution, equipment repairs and salary payments. Chipping away at the public’s confidence in their abilities is the adoption by some of the younger soldiers of an “American look”-dark, wraparound sunglasses, bandanas and knee and elbow pads-accessories Iraqis see as alien to their military traditions.

Many Iraqis also see hints of sectarian bias in the Shiite-dominated security forces, particularly the national police, and a disregard for human rights. There have been numerous reports in recent weeks about the torture of detainees in jails run by Iraq’s interior ministry, which oversees the police, but the government insists that offenders risk the full weight of the law.

In the days approaching withdrawal, insurgents attacked cities with renewed force, killing 30 in pre-dominantly Kurdish and oil-rich Kirkuk.

President Obama told CNN, “The Iraqis are rightly treating this day as a cause for celebration,” Obama said Tuesday. “The very fact that Iraqis are celebrating this day is a testament to the courage, the capability and commitment of every single American who has served in Iraq…. Through tour after tour of duty, our troops have overcome every obstacle to extend this precious opportunity to the Iraqi people.”

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10
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