Thursday, May 25, 2006

False Hopes Of A Quick Withdrawal Of U.S. Forces Again Raised

Like many times before, new false hopes for an early U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq are again being raised. And just like so many times before, there is little reason to actually expect that this will come to pass. Many times before the Administration raised the same dashed hopes based on the elections in Iraq, the formation of a government, etc., but each time nothing much has changed for the deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq.

Yesterday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki again raised hopes for an American drawdown of troops within 18 months. But once again there is little reason to expect this will come to pass. Reality factors in Iraq simply don't support such a major shift in the U.S. mission in Iraq within 18 months.

Most Iraqi units are not fully functional without U.S. backing for major combat missions or duties as of yet. Iraqi troops simply walking away from duty for the most minor of reasons is still a huge problem. Within the last few weeks, American officers attended what was supposed to a "graduation" ceremony of successful new Iraqi military recruits, and when these newly trained recruits discovered that their tour of duty included patrolling areas away from their home, then most of these new recruits began to strip off their uniforms and simply walk away from duty.

There is no evidence that sectarian violence has shown any great recent improvement. Just yesterday nine more bodies of torture and murder from sectarian violence were found for example. There is evidence that more and more middle class Iraqis are not fleeing Iraq to settle in Jordan or neighboring nations. Iraqi immigration to the U.S. has doubled from 1990-2000 to 90,000 Iraqi born citizens, and continues to grow as a result of U.S. activity in Iraq. More than 100,000 Iraqi citizens have abandoned their homes to live in one of eight refugee tent camps because of sectarian violence.

By 1922, Britain had 130,000 soldiers in Iraq to try to control both sectarian and insurgent violence. By 1958, British troops could no longer control the violence and left after the rebellion that year. The U.S. still has around 130,000 troops in Iraq, but has so far failed to control the violence in Iraq. Since 1922 Iraq has not seen any significant improvement in sectarian relations or a reduction in violence.

Even if U.S. troops are supposed to have their mission change to mainly a support role for Iraqi troops, that doesn't sound like any significant change from the mission now since few Iraqi troops units are not very functional on their own without U.S. support for larger patrol missions. And most U.S. troop deaths still are from booby traps such as roadside bombs, so there is little reason to expect U.S. deaths to fall very much. And just like the failed Vietnamization of the South Vietnamese to fight their civil war, the insurgent elements will likely only strenthen their attacks creating a withering of Iraqi military and police forces if a strong U.S. military backing is not with the Iraqi forces. This still forces the U.S. to remain as the main force in Iraq to prevent violence from growing out of hand and the wobbly government of Iraq from a collapse.

Militia groups such as the Badr and Wolf Brigades are still very strong forces in Iraq. The Badr Brigade has members in the military, police force and in the government. At least six provincial governors are Badr Brigade militia members. And militia members hold seats in the new national government in Iraq. Milita elements are also heavily responsible for the abductions and torture murders of Iraqi civilians and the leaving of bodies in the streets of cities like Baghdad.

Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George Bush could all use some major political cover right now. All three face heavy at home questions about their ability to manage the Iraq mess. It's more easy than anything to keep raising expectations that all will soon be well in Iraq, although the ground situation is not substantially better and history is against any quick situational change in Iraq. Certainly it would be great to see Iraq suddenly become stable and able to manage it's own security and all the sectarian violence of nearly 100 years simply go away. And it would be great to see that the American mission in Iraq finally was a success. But other than very wishful thinking, there is absolutely no good reason to expect that this will soon happen. Iraq is simply a land of heartbreaks and many tears and will remain that for the foreseeable future.

The sagging poll numbers for both George Bush and Tony Blair can really use some high expectations to prevent a further slide. Republican candidates can use really use good news to bouy their November hopes as well. But the reality is that little will improve in Iraq in thenext 18 months. Other than some short term political cover, there is very little to expect from the raising of false hopes about the long road towards some stability in Iraq and an end to all the deaths and killing.


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