Gates: War in Iraq Over, U.S. Transitioning to Iraqi Forces

RAMADI, Iraq, Sept. 1, 2010 — The war in Iraq is over and the Unit­ed States is enter­ing the final phase of the U.S. engage­ment in Iraq, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said here today.

U.S. com­bat oper­a­tions have ceased, the sec­re­tary said. Amer­i­can forces are still par­tic­i­pat­ing in some coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tions with the Iraqis, and they are train­ing and advis­ing and assist­ing Iraqi forces, but the Unit­ed States is not at war in Iraq. 

Gates said a lot has changed in Iraq since he took office in Decem­ber 2006. Then Iraq was in des­per­ate straits. Eth­nic vio­lence – encour­aged by al-Qai­da in Iraq – threat­ened to tear the coun­try apart. Sun­ni and Shia Arabs were at each other’s throats and both groups dis­trust­ed the Kurds. Insur­gents were plant­i­ng road­side bombs and dri­ving car bombs into Iraqi and coali­tion forces. 

In those dark days came the deci­sion to surge 30,000 more Amer­i­can troops into the coun­try to take and hold areas until Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces could take their place. 

It worked, but Amer­i­can ser­vice­mem­bers paid a ter­ri­ble price. Since the inva­sion in 2003, a total of 4,427 Amer­i­can ser­vice­mem­bers have died in Iraq. Some 34,268 have been wound­ed. Hun­dreds of thou­sands have served in Iraq – often repeatedly. 

Reporters asked Gates if that sac­ri­fice was worth it. “If Iraq ends up a demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­try that is a con­struc­tive par­tic­i­pant in inter­na­tion­al life … then I think look­ing back the poten­tial for it being the core of sig­nif­i­cant change in this region as a demo­c­ra­t­ic state is hard to under­es­ti­mate,” he said. “Our men and women in uni­form believe we have accom­plished some­thing that makes the sac­ri­fice and the blood­shed not to have been in vain. Our men and women have accom­plished some­thing real­ly quite extraordinary.” 

The sec­re­tary is opti­mistic about the future of the coun­try. He said that “pol­i­tics has bro­ken out here,” with oppos­ing sides talk­ing about form­ing a gov­ern­ment rather than shoot­ing at each oth­er. “The efforts of al-Qai­da to reignite eth­nic vio­lence that we saw in 2006 and 2007 have not been suc­cess­ful,” he said. “I’m opti­mistic that these guys will form a coali­tion gov­ern­ment and con­tin­ue to make progress. This is going to be a work in progress for a long time. This is a new thing in the sev­er­al thou­sand year his­to­ry of Iraq, and it’s a pret­ty new thing in this region of the world.” 

Gates gave two exam­ples of the changes he has seen just since arriv­ing in Iraq this morn­ing. The first is how emp­ty it was at al Asad Air Base, where he land­ed. At one time, the base housed 22,000 Marines and soldiers. 

The oth­er exam­ple was reflect­ed in the ques­tions from the sol­diers of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Com­bat Team. Gates vis­it­ed the sol­diers here and held a ques­tion and answer ses­sion with them. The sol­diers of the advise and assist brigade “did not ask ques­tions about secu­ri­ty or issues relat­ing to Iraq so much as they were about their own sit­u­a­tions and plans going for­ward,” Gates said. 

There will con­tin­ue to be tough times in Iraq for the 50,000 Amer­i­can troops that remain to advise and assist Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces. He told the sol­diers, for exam­ple, that he would not favor stop­ping the spe­cial pays they receive for their ser­vice here. 

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twitter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →