In two weeks, the war in Iraq will be over.
We have President Barack Obama to thank for that. The end of the Iraq War is the fulfillment of a campaign promise as well as the greatest foreign policy victory of his administration.
Yesterday, the president and his wife chose the famed 82nd Airborne Division, my alma mater, to thank the troops and their families for their incredible commitment and sacrifice. The United States military, its leaders, and their families deserve credit for our decisive victory in Iraq. But we all owe a debt of gratitude to our commander-in-chief for his leadership, vision, and steadfast determination to bring this conflict to a close.
The president campaigned on the policy of ending the war with Iraq and shifting our focus to the forgotten front of Afghanistan. In his 2009 inaugural address he stated, “We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people.” He has not wavered from that goal since.
On August 31, 2010, he announced the end of combat operations and laid out a timeline for transfer of security to the Iraqi government. Though some believed this to be a political move it stood in stark contrast to President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” announcement on May 1, 2003, when he declared an end to major combat operations. It is difficult to argue that a conflict that still involved more than 150,000 American soldiers was anything but a major combat operation. But by the end of 2010, with a stable, though nascent government in place, Iraq was finally ready to begin the transition.
There were, of course, political and security concerns that led to a final decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by December 31. The most important was Iraq’s refusal to uphold a provision that gave immunity to American soldiers from prosecution in Iraqi courts. Obama drew a line in the sand and said this was unacceptable. He was absolutely right. Under no circumstance should the U.S. approve Status of Forces Agreements that abandon the men and women who are fighting to protect the host nation. We have our own Uniform Code of Military Justice that has and will adequately punish and prosecute service members who break local and international laws. If the Iraqi government is willing to stick to this position (which they have every right to do) they have rightly achieved the will to take responsibility for their own future.
With the Iraqis willing to take on their own security, and agreements on continued diplomatic and security cooperation in place, it is time to bring our brave men and women home. The decision was made with ample time to complete scheduled training of Iraqi security forces and to plan and execute the massive movement of personnel and equipment out of the country. On Wednesday at Fort Bragg the president said, “We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We are building a new partnership between our nations.”
This is a well-thought and responsible resolution to a terrible and controversial nine year conflict.
This four-tour veteran of the Iraq War thanks the president for keeping his promise.
Photo Credit: U.S. Army