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U.S. Troops Withdraw from Iraqi Cities

Iraqis Celebrate as U.S. Troops Exit to City Outskirts

Iraqis Celebrate as U.S. Troops Exit to City Outskirts

Iraqis were partying in the streets on Tuesday last week, celebrating the withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Iraqi cities.  As Newsweek reported, U.S. military operations have moved to nonurban areas and “belts” around major cities such as Baghdad, Basra and Mosul.  American troops will still be at the disposal of Iraqi security leaders, preparing to step in when asked.  But a major question on many minds, even Iraqis’, is will the government ask for help when they need it? 

The day was dubbed “National Sovereignty Day,” a holiday declared by President al-Maliki.  Iraqi officials have been calling this Iraq’s “liberation,” turning the move of U.S. troops into a major event.  With the news of the celebration and declared national holiday, my emotions are torn; part of me is elated that our troops are getting out of the deadliest zones as they try to battle suicide bombers and that Iraqis are feeling more empowered and less occupied.  However, the other part is feeling slightly offended.  Obviously, an occupying force is a horrible thing.  But we’ve remedied our leadership, changed our strategy for handling this invasion and are generally trying to make international repairs, including in Iraq.  To be characterized as an “enemy” seems to me as a little too polarized.  I must admit though that if I had been living in an occupied country, I would probably be feeling the same thing about the occupiers. 

From Newsweek’s report, I’m not the only one feeling conflicted about the withdrawal — Iraqis are as well.  A retired school teacher named Fatima Ali said, “Americans are outsiders and occupiers.  They destroy the country and cause its people lots of harm.”  Other Iraqis are looking past the celebrations and are feeling a little nervous about security operations being handed over to the Iraqi forces.  A college student, Samir Ahmad, was quoted saying, “I’m not happy with the pulling of U.S. soldiers out of the cities. It leaves everything in the hands of the Iraqi forces, who proved incompetent in achieving security, for they are sectarian, impolite, and aggressive.”  And then there’s the comment made by Maj. Gen. Hussein Jasim al-Awadi, the top national police commander, explaining that U.S. forces would still be close by, responding to Iraqi requests for assistance.  In an interview, he said, “The Americans are not leaving… civilians should calm down and relax.” 

As for the immediate future, we’ll be looking for two things: whether the Iraqi government will ask for help in security the cities when they need it; and if the violence in the cities subsides now that U.S. troops are no longer there.  And of course, looking to the future, we’ll be waiting to see what happens during the parliamentary elections at the end of 2010, as well as the full withdrawal of U.S. forces.



Jennifer Bushaw

Jennifer Bushaw holds an MA from the University of Chicago in Middle Eastern Studies with an emphasis on policy. She focused her research, including her Thesis, on modern Iraq and the Iraq war. She also has a Bachelor's in History from the University of Michigan. Jennifer is currently working as an Investigative Research Associate for a security advisory and management firm in Chicago, Illinois.

Areas of Focus:
Iraq-US Policy; Security; Coalition Operations;