Apr 132008
Authors: Sean Reed

Morale has got to be low for the troops in Iraq — for both natives and American alike.

On Sunday, it was announced that over 1,300 Iraqi troops and policemen would be dismissed after they either failed or flat out refused to fight the Mahdi Army forces of influential Iraqi Shiite Cleric Moktada al-Sadir.

On the same day, it was announced that Iraqi officials actively engaged in a secret deal with the Serbian government to the tune of $833 million for arms and other military equipment, much of which turned out to be faulty, because timelines on getting equipment from the U.S. were too long, an Iraqi official told the New York Times.

These revelations come as more bad news for many Americans who want to see the U.S. engagement in Iraq decrease.

After last summer’s troop surge and the relative stability that it brought to the nation, as highlighted in Gen. David H. Petreaus’ report to Congress in September, as well as his announcement for a stepped-up troop withdrawal to lower the number of active troops to 140,000, there was widespread optimism that many young soldiers would be able to return to their families.

The recent surge of sectarian violence, however, has put a damper on those plans.

On Tuesday, citing “fragile and reversible” success in Iraq, Petreaus advocated a 45-day freeze in talks about troop withdrawals in Iraq because of the recent events. The general, facing intense questioning from the Democrats, declined to comment under what conditions he would recommend restarting the withdrawals.

Given the recent events, it is unlikely that any talks of troop drawdown would gain much traction. The major concern now is that the Iraqis’ continued inability to defend themselves with their own personnel is putting future hopes of returning American troops home in jeopardy.

At the peak of the surge operation, there were nearly 170,000 troops in the country. Currently, the number is hovering somewhere around 155,000 — still significantly higher than pre-surge rates.The primary objective of the initial troop surge was creating enough stability in Iraq for the development of homegrown security forces that would lessen the nation’s dependence on American forces.

While the surge did succeed in creating a temporary window of stability, if current events are any indication, the build-up of Iraqi forces has been a tremendous failure.

Of course, there are those who refuse to acknowledge this point.

Sen. John McCain, during Petreaus’ testimony, painted an extremely optimistic picture of the situation.

“We’re no longer staring into the abyss of defeat, and we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success,” he said.

But in light of Gen. Petreaus’ admission the same day to Congress that “we haven’t turned any corners” in Iraq and the recent fighting in Basra and elsewhere, makes one wonder exactly how McCain can come to this conclusion.

The fact of the matter is — and this is nothing new — we are facing a crisis when it comes to Iraq.

Without our continued presence, the fledgling Baghdad government is likely to fall to militant sectarian leaders who, quite likely, would turn out to be just as bad as Saddam.

On the other hand, our servicemen are continuing to die in a struggle that has seen no real progress since President Bush proclaimed victory in May 2003.

So what do we do? What we should have been doing all along — giving the Iraqis the tools to defend themselves.

Unless we force the Iraqi government to take real steps toward developing a security force, no progress will occur.

It’s high time we stopped playing national security guards for Iraq. It’s their turn to stand up for themselves.

Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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