Is the U.S. Really Leaving Iraq?

Of course not!

With his Oct. 21 statement on our withdrawal of troops from Iraq by year-end, President Barack Obama is keeping his promise to the American people for complete withdrawal of U.S. troops and satisfying the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government. Mr. Obama declared that the U.S. and Iraq would have a “relationship between sovereign states, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect.”

Yet even with the withdrawal under way, Mr. Obama’s actions continue to undermine the sovereignty of Iraq.

Even without the presence of U.S. troops, America’s footprint in Iraq is immense. In addition to the fortress near the site of Saddam Hussein’s palace, two additional, $100 million buildings are slated to be built outside Baghdad as mini-embassies in the north and south of Iraq. Iraqis know that U.S. troops acting as trainers will still be in Iraq, both as a permanent presence of less than 200 and as an undetermined presence of U.S. troops permanently stationed in neighboring countries. In addition to these troops and embassy personnel, a large and robust force of CIA agents are presumed to be on the ground. As one of the largest contingencies of foreign personnel in any sovereign nation, it is no surprise that Iraqis refused to bargain away their right to enforce their own laws by giving our troops immunity from prosecution.

The use of a huge personnel force, with a large number of private contractors, has even stoked the ire of some Republicans. Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, in a recent letter to President Obama expressed his dismay at the drastic increase of contractors as a private army in Iraq. “The American people have a right to know the past, present and future status of private security contractors in these regions,” Mr. Issa wrote. Taken a step further, the American people have a right to know that our stated withdrawal is far from a true withdrawal of our presence from Iraq.

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