After nearly seven years in a country that we were originally only going to invade for six months at most, the United States Marine Corp. completed their mission in Iraq and began to turn over command of Anbar province to the U.S. Army. This was the first move to truly signal the beginning of the United States’ withdrawal from Iraq and a shift in focus to Afghanistan.
While military officials have been happy with the security situation in most of Iraq, the move also comes in the middle of an election scandal in which 500 politicians have been blacklisted by the Sunni government for having alleged ties to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.
Vice President Joe Biden, on the same day as the military hand-over, visited Iraq to try to put an end to the political problems so as to avoid any issues with the timetable for the U.S. withdrawal.
According to the Pentagon, Obama’s pledge for a sixteen-month withdrawal is going as planned and if the U.S. Can get all but 50,000 residual troops out by the end of August, Obama will have his first real political victory. Most Marines shipped out long before the hand over to the army. The Marines had sent 25,000 troops to Iraq but only 3,000 remain with most getting set to go home or to Afghanistan.
As part of an Iraq-U.S. Security agreement, the remaining 50,000 soldiers would be stationed in Iraq until the end of 2011 at which time the U.S. is required to withdraw all of its troops.
While tensions in Iraq had settled substantially, violence still remains. The Obama Administration believes that the residual troops and the Iraqi forces will be sufficient to battle insurgency.
Most of the soldiers being shipped out of Iraq are hardly out of harm’s way. The United States recently escalated the number of troops in Afghanistan and many say that the real war there is just beginning. With more troops necessary in Afghanistan, the Iraq withdrawal could not come at a better time…outside of any time in the last seven years.