Feature

U.S. troops exit Iraqi cities

U.S. troops pulled back from Iraqi cities, a move that sparked dancing in the streets as Iraqis celebrated what was portrayed as the beginning of the end of the six-year U.S. occupation.

U.S. troops pulled back from Iraqi cities last week, a move that sparked dancing in the streets as Iraqis celebrated what was portrayed as the beginning of the end of the six-year U.S. occupation. Most of the 130,000 U.S. troops remaining in Iraq are now billeted in rural outposts, ahead of next August’s planned withdrawal of all combat troops. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called the pullback “a great victory” and declared a “National Sovereignty Day.” President Barack Obama said that while “the Iraqi people are rightly treating this day as cause for celebration,” there would be “difficult days ahead.”

Responsibility for Iraq’s cities now falls to the homegrown Iraqi security forces, whose readiness is the cause of widespread apprehension. Violence against civilians has increased sharply in the last month, and will likely continue to rise in the run-up to January’s national elections. But Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, expressed confidence in the Iraqi forces.

It was hard watching Iraqis “break out the fireworks” to celebrate our withdrawal, said Michael Gerson in The Washington Post, but it was a proud day for us, too. Obama won’t admit this, but we were only able to withdraw from Iraq’s cities because President Bush’s troop “surge” brought about “one of the most extraordinary reversals of fortune in the history of American warfare.”

Lest we forget, it almost ended very differently, said The Washington Times in an editorial. Had we left “precipitously” in 2007, as Democrats demanded, we very well could now be talking about a “Vietnam-style defeat.” What we’re witnessing “may not be ‘Mission accomplished,’ but we are getting closer.”

Unfortunately, the threat of civil war still “hovers on Iraq’s heat-rippled horizon,” said the Los Angeles Times. Even in a good month, hundreds of innocent Iraqis are still dying on the streets we want credit for making “safe.” Soon, with luck, Iraq will “return to its rightful owners—Iraqis,” but make no mistake: “Americans will always bear responsibility for this misbegotten war of choice.”

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