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Published: Thursday, 6/3/2010

Divided Iraq

U.S. TROOP withdrawal from Iraq is proceeding even as that country continues to wrangle over the composition of its government, three months after the March 7 elections.

Violence in Iraq is also proliferating, although it is difficult to determine its genesis. It could be partly an accompaniment to the political pushing and pulling involved in creating a new government - folding in competing Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish, and other elements in the divided country.

It also could be part of an effort to delay U.S. troop withdrawal. All U.S. forces have withdrawn from Iraqi cities. All but 50,000 of the remaining U.S. troops, and all U.S. combat forces, are scheduled to leave Iraq by Aug. 31. The remaining troops will devote their attention to training Iraqi armed forces until their departure at the end of 2011.

The current level of U.S. forces is 92,000. The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, 94,000, exceeds the number in Iraq, reflecting the changed priorities of President Obama. The Department of Defense is seeking a supplemental appropriation of $58.8 billion for the wars, on top of the Pentagon's regular budget.

Mr. Obama's decision to put the new war money in a supplemental request is contrary to an earlier pledge he made to put Department of Defense spending proposals in one bill.

The new violence also could be an effort by those in Iraq with a stake in retaining a U.S. troop presence to keep troops there. This group would include Iraqi officials who have cooperated with the U.S. occupation and might have to leave when the American presence has shrunk too much to continue to protect them.

It also includes U.S. and other defense contractors who profit from the war.

The trouble could be a preview of the post-American showdown among Iraqi groups that will almost inevitably follow U.S. withdrawal. Executed president Saddam Hussein was able to keep the lid on Iraq by violent means, ruling by force on behalf of the 20 percent Sunni minority over the majority Shiites and the Kurdish minority in the north.

Trouble in Iraq in the coming months will put pressure on the United States to keep its forces there. That pressure must be resisted for America's own sound reasons.



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