Iraqis have always debated the presence of U.S. troops on their country’s soil. The topic became a heated one prior to the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States that decided on a full withdrawal of American troops by the end of 2011.
In less than two months what was agreed upon in 2008 in SOFA is going to become a reality.
Yet the debate still continues in some shape or form, as it has turned into one about the training of Iraqi forces. That topic too will eventually die down, because Iraq cannot allow full immunity to the remaining U.S. troops.
The U.S. pullout has been hard for Iraqi politicians as they expressed their utmost desire to see the forces stay on. It’s also been politically difficult for the Americans.
The issue of Iranian interference is not new, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated the concern by warning the Islamic republic not to “miscalculate” in the American drawdown from Iraq.
The debate about whether some U.S. troops should stay behind to train Iraqi forces is futile, because it does not address the root causes of the country’s still-fragile security situation or take into account that bombings are still an occurring theme.
Regardless of the sophistication of the U.S.’s annual reports on Iraq, in which it includes political and economic parameters as vital measures aiding stability in the country – which is still considered a failed state – the reports are inadequate because they are not matched with a political will and determination – especially for Iraqis, if not the Americans – to turn the country into a success story.
The Americans, burdened by the cost of war and lives, wanted to expedite their Iraqi operation and thus overlooked quality and concentrated more on quantity. Meanwhile, the Iraqis are beset with a political landscape rife with corruption and the unfortunate menace of sectarianism.
It is a fallacy to believe that the Iraqi Governing Council – set up as a provincial government in the country on July 12, 2003 – represents the country’s diversity ,as recruits were mainly drawn on sectarian lines.
For instance, after the 2005 elections, the Shi’ite and Kurdish parties recruited their followers en masse and around 35,000 former Kurdish Peshmerga fighters ended up in the army; they pledge their loyalty to Kurdistan first and Iraq second.
The country’s assault on terrorism saw a big improvement only when Sunnis from the Anbar province decided to turn against al-Qaeda and formed the Awakening movement, an event that occurred at the peak of sectarian violence, in 2006.
About 2,300 members of the Awakening were enrolled in police training courses in December 2008, according to the U.S. military. The Iraqi government also had plans to integrate 20-30 percent of the members into the country’s army and police forces.
But these individuals, too, had become targets for al-Qaeda in Iraq, a phenomenon that refuses to die or disappear.
There were also reports of Sunni officers being targeted, as well as reports of al-Qaeda militants escaping prison with the help of senior officials from the government itself.
Other reports pointed to militias being funded by certain political parties against the other.
How does training a people who are already divided and pledge loyalty not to Iraq first and foremost by a government that is corrupt prove helpful?
The U.S. is concentrating in the wrong arena and treating Iraq as its own battlefield against other regional enemies like Iran.
One wonders, where is the evidence of the United States’ soft power and cultural influences in Iraq?
(The last time it was Denmark that held an inter-faith dialogue for Iraqis, in early 2011.)
Apart from the soft-power talk, why hasn’t there been essential investment in the country, which could have boosted employment?
During George W. Bush’s administration, a Marshall Plan for Iraq and Middle East was proposed, imitating the success story of rebuilding Germany after WWII.
In her speech after accepting the George C. Marshall war in June 2011, Secretary Clinton said, “We’ve certainly tried to apply wherever possible some of the Marshall principles, trying to target assistance toward private enterprise and ramp up existing energy infrastructure such as the electricity grids to attract investment and promote growth.”
The number one complaint Iraqis have are the power outages, which compel hundreds of Iraqis to protest against the lack of this essential need. A lot of Iraqis feel that eight years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein promises of a better life have yet to be fulfilled. Iraq purchasing F-16s and having the Americans training its pilots to use them is solving only part of the problem. What Iraqis need to learn is how to be loyal to Iraq and their countrymen instead of using F-16s in the wrong direction ...
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