So the Iraqi government approved the new mandate under which US troops would operate a week or so ago (I’ve been really busy with work and so overwhelmed by everything that has been happening in the world that I haven’t had the time/desire to write on the blog for a bit, but that is changing and once again I am back). The mandate called for the removal of ALL US troops from Iraqi cities by June 2009, and the removal of ALL US troops from Iraq by January 1st 2012. It seems pretty simple and straightforward: get the troops out of the cities, and then out of the country. I am disappointed that thus far President Elect Obama has not made any real comments (at least that I have heard) that he will get the troops home sooner–especially considering his campaign stance of being against the war in Iraq and wanting to get the troops out of there. But now it seems that the US military has found a way to circumvent the newly signed operational mandate and keep thousands of troops in the cities after June.
The mandates specifies “combat troops” and the troops that will be staying in the cities will be considered “training and mentoring troops.” They will be there to further train the Iraqi security forces (why can’t we call the Iraqi army or Iraqi military I don’t know) and therefore will not be considered combat troops. I find this bastardization of semantics quite funny and ridiculous. Obviously these “mentor troops” at one time were combat troops, and apparently the simple change in what they are called is enough for the US to ignore a mandate that they agreed to. I mean, if they really wanted, they could just declare that all US troops are now “trainers and mentors” and keep them in the cities and country indefinitely.
I have yet to read any response from the Iraqis, notably from Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr–the guy that has been calling for US troop removal since the early days of the invasion–but I am sure there will be a response soon, and I do not necessarily think that it will be a positive one. Keeping troops in the cities, no matter what their designated title is–is probably not the best way to show Iraq that they can trust us, or to prove to them that we will honor agreements and mandates that we have made with them. Does this mean that we will still have troops there in 2012 because we will have changed their titles from “combat brigades” to “mentor brigades?” I don’t know, but that does not seem unlikely right now.
I also wonder if this will stir dissent among the Iraqis that want the US out of the cities and the countries. The Awakening Councils are overseen by al-Sadr and others like him, and they are one of the big reasons violence in Iraq has declined. If they suddenly decided that they no longer wanted to play along with US troops, and since they have not yet been placed in the category of Iraqi security forces (mainly because of the Iraqis government to include them) it is easy to imagine that they could once again start fighting the US troops still in the country. We have always walked a fine line in Iraq, but now our actions, once again, threaten to unbalance us and bring more chaos to the region.
I think it is a bad idea to keep troops in the cities, however we happen to label them, and is just asking for more violence to erupt and more lives (Iraqi and American) to be lost. I hope this is not the case and that the Iraqis are okay with our subversion of the treaty we put much pressure on them to sign and agree to. It does not seem likely that the Iraqis will be happy with this, but we can hope it does not push them into increasing violence against us. Of course if it did, they could not be blamed because it was our choice (or at least the US military’s) to change the conditions of the deal while still appearing to honor it. At times like these I am reminded of The Empire Strikes back when Darth Vader tells Lando Calrissian:
” I am altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it further.”