Iraq Concerned U.S. May Leave Too Soon
In an ironic twist, senior Iraqi officials are now publically fretting over the possibility that U.S. troops will be pulled out too soon.
Iraq’s foreign minister said he’s concerned the United States may pull out of the country before the army and police are ready to take responsibility for the nation’s security. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari meets with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley on Thursday, and his wide-ranging agenda includes “the continued engagement” of the United States in Iraq. The Iraqi minister came to New York to urge the U.N. Security Council to extend the mandate of the U.S.-led multinational force, saying Iraqi troops and police cannot yet defend the country against an armed insurgency by remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime and some foreigners.
The council responded positively, issuing a statement Tuesday extending the mandate and saying it looks forward to Iraqi security forces playing a greater role and ultimately assuming responsibility for the country’s national security. Acting U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson, speaking on behalf of the multinational force, told the council it won’t remain in Iraq any longer than necessary. But if Iraqi authorities want the force to stay, it shouldn’t leave “until the Iraqis can meet the serious security challenges they face,” she said.
Even though Zebari repeated numerous times in his speech to the council that Iraq still can’t survive on its own and needs help, the foreign minister said Iraq isn’t certain Washington will stay engaged. “I am concerned Ã¢€” I am concerned,” Zebari said in an interview at the United Nations late Tuesday. “I’m a realist, OK, and we’ve seen that before. We need to complete this mission with their help. We are getting very close. The riding is getting tougher.” But he said, “we are confident that we will make it.”
There’s a lot of pressure, both in Iraq and at home, to get U.S. troops out as soon as possible. Further, once Iraqi forces are sufficiently trained, there may come a point where the presence of Americans becomes hard to justify strategically, since they currently create part of the security problem they’re working to solve. So far, though, I’ve seen no indication that the Bush Administration has lost its resolve to stay until the mission is complete.