But there is a growing situation in Iraq that is developing as a potential issue surrounding Washington’s plans for withdrawal, though how they deal with it could offer clues about how they will deal with Afghanistan next year.
Iraq has delayed it scheduled elections and this week has seen a violent and deadly Baghdad attack- will this change U.S. plans? No, says U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is currently in Iraq meeting with leaders.
The attacks seem coordinated and planned as part of a drive to undermine the Iraqi Prime Minister’s claims that he has brought security- all of the bombings (4) have been on heavily protected government buildings- all attacks have been claimed by al Qaeda.
"We were very concerned,” but the new election date "ended up being one that we can handle and still stay on our glide path. We're still on track and we are going to be able to accomplish the mission of reaching the transition force levels as we wanted to,” said Lieutenant-General Charles Jacoby, day-to-day Iraq operations commander.
So here we are pulling troops out of Iraq as government buildings are being bombed and the election dates are being delayed because of inner turmoil and violence. Sound familiar? Our plan is to withdraw around 65,000 troops by the end of next summer, while at the same time adding troops to Afghanistan- no, they will not be troops moving from Iraq to Afghanistan.
So why is this happening?
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (who?) has the unenviable job of trying to get majority Arabs and minority Kurds to agree on the politics of how to move forward in Iraq. This is a difficult job on its own, but one made moreso because of the insistent insurgency linked to al Qaeda.
"We are determined to uproot this government and pull down its pillars and target its points of strength. The list of targets will not end until the banner of one God is once again raised over Baghdad," said the Sunni group claiming responsibility- they consider Shi'ite Muslims like those in power to be heretics.
Now that is an issue that isn’t going away anytime soon. It makes me realize that while the religious issues in the U.S. are serious, affecting legislation from all sides, it has not gone to that next level of violence and utter hatred that seems to be common in other countries where the divisions are not separate from the government. It also reinforces the fact that the U.S. forces cannot change generations of feud, cannot change religious beliefs, and can only put down the military and goodwill groundwork for a new government. And then, leave.
Photo Credit: U.S. Army (via Flickr under CCL)