With virtually all American troops scheduled to be out of Iraq by the end of the year, thousands of them are coming home this month – many of them sooner than expected, to the delight of their families.
As of last week, more than 10,000 U.S. soldiers were deployed in Iraq, down from 170,000, and the number was dropping daily. Iraqi security forces, including army and police officers, are to assume full responsibility for the country’s security by the end of the year under a deal agreed to by Iraq and the United States.
The withdrawal will bring to an end the war that began in 2003 with the toppling of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the policy decisions of the Bush administration.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced the troop withdrawal in October, cutting some units’ deployments short. His announcement followed news that negotiations to extend the deadline broke down after Iraq’s top political leaders refused to grant U.S. troops legal immunity, opening up the prospect of soldiers being tried in Iraqi courts and being subjected to Iraqi punishment.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta thanked the more than one million American service members who have served in Iraq for “the remarkable progress” made over the past nine years but acknowledged the severe challenges that face the struggling democracy.
“Let me be clear: Iraq will be tested in the days ahead — by terrorism, and by those who would seek to divide, by economic and social issues, by the demands of democracy itself,” Mr. Panetta said. “Challenges remain, but the U.S. will be there to stand by the Iraqi people as they navigate those challenges to build a stronger and more prosperous nation.”
Is America better off now that we have pulled out of Iraq? Will our lack of presence and security for their country end up hurting Iraq, or will they finally be able to operate as a nation?