Monday, August 30, 2010

Biden in Iraq for Security Changeover Talks

With the seven-year combat mission in Iraq coming to an end Tuesday, Vice President Biden has arrived in Baghdad to attend a changeover ceremony and to meet with Iraqi political leaders. He's expected to push them to form a new government, nearly six months after inconclusive elections. There's widespread concern that the political instability will lead to a reversal of recent improvements in security.

Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, a U.S. deputy commander, told Fox, "I'm not sure how much longer this situation can go on. Rata PenuhLook at the opportunity that presents for the terrorists." Amid this atmosphere Fox News spoke to shoppers at a Baghdad market this weekend. "There's no country where a government hasn't been formed for six months," said Abu Muhammad. "Everywhere else, one month is enough."

But the top U.S. commander in Iraq predicts the election stalemate could drag on another eight weeks. General Ray Odierno told the New York Times, "If it goes beyond 1 October, what does that mean" Could there be a call for another election? I worry about that a little bit."

Despite the lack of a government, the last U.S. combat brigade packed up and left. Troop levels have dropped below 50,000 ahead of the August 31st deadline set by President Obama. Starting September 1, the U.S. military says it's mission changes from combat to "advise and assist." And all American troops are supposed to be gone by the end of next year.

That's a topic of heated debate at Haidar Mohammed's Baghdad bakery. "It's a good idea," says Mohammed. "The Americans must leave the country."

Ali Abdamir disagrees. "American soldiers should stay longer," he says, "Until we can rebuild the army and police forces."

U.S. commanders note that the remaining Americans will be trying to develop and strengthen Iraqi forces. "Yeah, we probably need 50-thousand soldiers here right now," admits Lt. Gen. Cone, "We'll probably need them for some time."

Last week, more than two dozen bombings and shootings across the country killed 56 Iraqis, mostly police and soldiers. Some Iraqis want to see a new leader who is tougher on terrorists.

Abu Muhammad declares, "Iraq doesn't need religious parties. It needs a strong man to direct the people."

Sohair Ahmed thinks the U.S. should step in and run Iraq for awhile. "I prefer to give the authority to the Americans," she says. "Obama should appoint a Commissioner to Iraq. Iraqis are corrupt. Americans are not."

Her idea probably won't get any serious consideration from the Obama Administration. The President campaigned on ending the war. And even voters in Iraq's fledgling democracy know what that means. "Obama won the election and must satisfy his voters," says Abdamir.

The prevailing view in one Baghdad market is the President's policy is based on what's best for him politically, not necessarily what's best for Iraq.


No comments: