A Pentagon review earlier this year found “gaps [that] include little ability to integrate combined arms against conventional threats or external threats, little capability to defend Iraqi airspace, and maritime security shortcomings.” There are also serious questions about the capabilities of Iraqi NCOs — the backbone of any army. The quality of leadership appears to be uneven, at best. This is where additional training for Iraqi forces is vital — something that President Obama could have, should have been able to negotiate with the Iraqi government. While there has been a vague “understanding” that training will continue, there is no agreement about how the 5500 American soldiers who are staying at the American embassy will be used to enhance the abilities of the Iraqi military.
But there is no bigger danger to the nascent democracy in Iraq than the near total breakdown of the Iraqi government’s ability to function. On Sunday, the Sunnis threatened to pull out of the government completely unless the Shia Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, apportioned the ministerial portfolio’s — especially in the security area — more evenly between the two sects. “We are against the concentration of security powers in the hands of one person, that is the prime minister,” said Sunni lawmaker Hamid al-Mutlaq, a member of the bloc. It seems that as the US presence in Iraq has receded, al-Maliki has become more autocratic — another question that will never be answered now that the US has departed.
For the record, the last US serviceman to die in Iraq was Army Specialist David Hickman, killed on November 14 when a roadside bomb in Baghdad blew up his vehicle. The rest of the war’s costs, compiled by the hard-left think tank Center for American Progress from relatively neutral or unbiased sources is a reminder of what the US military accomplished and what still needs to be done:
Coalition deaths totaled 4,803, of which 4,484 (93 percent) were American. The number of Americans wounded was 32,200. At least 463 non-Iraqi contractors were killed.
Iraqi civilian deaths are estimated to total between 103,674 and 113,265. (From the website Iraq Body Count which is generally recognized as possessing the most accurate information currently available.)
The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees says the war resulted in 1.24 million internally displaced persons and more than 1.6 million refugees.
The Congressional Research Service puts the dollar cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom at $806 billion.
More than 2 million American military personnel served in Iraq.
Total reconstruction spending to date: $182 billion plus another $107 billion for the Iraqi government.
Taxpayer money will continue to flow to Iraq. But one can certainly question just who it is we are funding: A highly sectarian Iranian stooge in Prime Minister Maliki? Or the very rough beginnings of a democratic Iraq loosely allied and supportive of our interests in the Middle East? Going forward, there will no doubt be setbacks and controversy. But whatever hope is engendered by the untimely withdrawal of American forces among the Iraqi people may be dashed by the stupidities and arrogance of the small-minded men in Baghdad and Washington who failed to see beyond the politics of the situation in Iraq and do what is ultimately best for both nations’ interests.
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