On August 31st, President Obama declared an end to combat in Iraq, saying that, We have met our responsibility. Now it is time to turn the page."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, stated that the end of combat operations marked a return to sovereignty and independence for Iraq.
However, 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, down from a high of 170,000 U.S. troops in Iraq in 2007. The 50,000 remaining troops are being called advise and assist brigade units by the U.S. military and will not be able to go on combat missions unless requested and accompanied by Iraqi military forces.
The large number of U.S. forces that remain in Iraq and in a position where they could be called into combat under the direction of Iraqi government military leadership, for Iraq military goals and embedded with Iraqi forces calls into question what the role and responsibilities are of the United States military and what its mission is in Iraq. The U.S. military's job is the protection and defense of the United States. The only reason that U.S. forces went to Iraq was because of faulty intelligence, including from foreign countries, that Iraq had a weapons of mass destruction program that was an imminent threat to the security of the United States.
Since it was found that Iraq didn't have a weapons of mass destruction program, U.S. forces have remained in Iraq for over seven years for an ever changing array of stated reasons. First as policemen for the violence in the city of Baghdad that occurred in the wake of the collapse of the Iraqi government. Then to find Saddam Hussein, and bring him to justice. Then as combatants against those who have attacked Iraqis, U.S. troops and other country's troops. These attacks have been ascribed to a large and ever changing group of those said to be responsible, from Baathist Party holdouts, to Sunnis, to Shia, to Sadr followers, to Kurdish separatists, to Al Queda and sometimes just ascribed to random unidentified "insurgents" with seemingly no identity of who the attackers are and therefore, why they are attacking and how they might be countered. These groups use the same method of guerrilla attacks with bombs and IED's, making them difficult to catch and bring to justice and leading to a beleaguered combat situation where there is no security and an unstable military situation.
U.S. and other country's forces have remained in Iraq for the stated reason of fighting crime, protecting Iraqi citizens, and training Iraqi military personnel. Clearly the Iraq military should be trained after seven years of training and if they aren't then clearly the job is incapable of being done by the U.S. or other foreign countries. As well, there's no reason why the Iraqis can't train themselves.
More than 4,400 U.S. troops have been killed and thousands more injured in Iraq. An estimated 100,000 Iraqis have been killed and millions have been displaced. Over $750 billion has been spent in Iraq in an action that has clearly not been a success. This is at the same time that the U.S. is cutting U.S. military commands in the U.S., with the recent decision to cut the U.S. Joint Forces Command and cutting U.S. forces, U.S. military bases and new weapons systems that are essential for their only real legitimate mission, the protection and defense of the United States.
The U.S.'s military mission in Iraq has to be assessed to find a way for all U.S. forces to leave Iraq, in order to leave Iraq protection and defense where it belongs, in the hands of the Iraq people and government.