Posts Tagged ‘troops withdrawal’

Three Things You Missed in Rolling Stone’s McChrystal Profile

June 24, 2010

by Tom Andrews, CommonDreams.org, June 23, 2010

Unfortunately, President Obama missed an opportunity today to not only replace an out-of-control general but an out-of-control and failing strategy in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, mainstream media continue to miss the most serious story contained in the now famous Rolling Stone profile.

Michael Hastings’ piece is about more than an adolescent general and his buddies’ school-yard shenanigans in Kabul and Paris. It was about a failing strategy in Afghanistan and the disconnect between how the administration portrays the war in public and the reality of how the war is actually being waged.

Here are three points in the Rolling Stone article that contradict what the White House has presented to Congress and the American people about the war in Afghanistan:

“Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further.” A senior military official stationed in Afghanistan told Hastings: “There’s a possibility we could ask for another surge of US forces next summer if we see success here.”

Continues >>

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Most Brits want troops out of Afghanistan

August 24, 2009
Morning Star Online,  Aug 23, 2009

by Daniel Coysh

Two separate opinion polls have laid bare the British public’s desire to see British troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan.

A BPIX poll for the Mail on Sunday newspaper found that 69 per cent of respondents did not believe that British forces should be fighting in Afghanistan, compared to just 31 per cent who thought that the mission was worthwhile.

The poll of 2,000 adults showed that three-quarters of those questioned did not swallow the government’s line that fighting in Afghanistan is making British people safer from terrorism.

Over the past few weeks, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Cabinet have repeatedly claimed that the war is part of efforts to keep Britain’s streets safer from attack.

A ComRes poll for The Independent on Sunday found that 60 per cent want British forces to be withdrawn from Afghanistan as quickly as possible, while 33 per cent disagreed.

The BPIX poll found that 72 per cent of respondents thought that Mr Brown was handling the war “badly” – with 32 per cent saying that he was doing “very badly.”

A mere 1.5 per cent thought that he was doing “very well.”

Hapless Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth received similar ratings, with 1.6 per cent saying that he was handling the war “very well” and 38 per cent saying that he was doing “very badly.”

Britain has about 9,000 troops in Afghanistan. The British death toll now stands at 206, nearly 30 more than were killed in the five years that British soldiers were in Iraq.

Iraq rules out extension of U.S. withdrawal dates

May 4, 2009

Reuters, May 3, 2009

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq will not extend withdrawal deadlines for U.S. troops set out in a bilateral accord, ending months of speculation about whether U.S. combat troops would stay beyond June in bases in the restive northern city of Mosul.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Iraq was committed to adhering to the withdrawal schedule in the pact, which took effect on January 1, including the requirement to withdraw U.S. combat troops from towns and cities by the end of June and a full withdrawal by the end of 2011.

“These dates cannot be extended and this is consistent with the transfer and handover of responsibility to Iraqi security forces,” Dabbagh said in a statement.

Violence has dropped sharply in Iraq, but suicide bombs and other attacks continue to rock the northern city of Mosul, seen as a final stronghold for Sunni Islamist al Qaeda and other insurgent groups.

The ongoing violence in the city, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, had prompted speculation that Iraq might grant a waiver for U.S. combat troops to stay in urban bases in Mosul.

Last month, five U.S. soldiers were killed in a suicide attack in Mosul, the single most deadly attack on American forces in more than a year.

Major-General David Perkins, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said last week that Mosul might be the one place where U.S. combat troops might stay on beyond June if requested to do so by the Iraqi government.

“It is quite honestly … the one area where you are most likely to possibly see a decision for U.S. forces to remain there, probably more so than any other place, just based on the activity there (and) the capability of Iraqi security forces,” Perkins said.

Even after June, U.S. forces can conduct combat and other operations within cities if authorized by the Iraqi government. A major U.S. base on the outskirts of Mosul, for example, will not be affected.

“There will still be joint patrols in the city — the difference is that now we will ‘drive’ to work so to speak since we won’t be living in the city any longer,” Colonel Gary Volesky, a senior U.S. official in Mosul, said last week.

(Additional reporting by Tim Cocks)

Bush’s Follies Will Destroy Obama If He Lets Them

November 28, 2008
Truthdig, Nov 25, 2008
USAF / Staff Sgt. Samuel Rogers

By William Pfaff

One might think that if Barack Obama believes he can make a success of his new administration by largely reconstituting the Clinton administration, Hillary Clinton included, he should know better than to take on the reckless ambitions and commitments of the George W. Bush administration as well: the government that gave America the Mideast and Asian crises, blunders and humiliations of the past 6 1/2 years.

The world has witnessed a futile, destructive and illegal American invasion of Iraq, a war conducted on false pretenses, supposedly against terrorists, accompanied by worldwide actions that have made American policy in Bush’s “global war on terror” seem to many Muslims an attack on Islamic society itself.

Obama is now taking on the quasi-impossible tasks of bringing to a successful and responsible conclusion the Bush government’s wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as what shows signs of becoming another military intervention of grave and unforeseeable consequences in Pakistan. He is doing so without challenging the assumptions and goals of Bush administration policy.

It has been the mindset of the Bush administration—and, unfortunately, of much of the neoconservative-influenced foreign policy establishment in Washington—that international society’s problems are reducible to wars that American armies will win. They are wrong on both counts. But some still argue that this is the way to a better and more democratic world.

Obama has no choice but to accept responsibility for these American crises. But why should he accept them on the distorted and even hysterical terms by which the Bush administration has defined world affairs since 2001?

Iraq has been a victim of the United States. Washington had no legal or moral justification for invading the country and destroying its infrastructure, killing an uncounted number of Iraqis and displacing half a million or more to ruined lives while setting off the sectarian conflicts that have wracked the country since 2003.

There is a heavy American responsibility to do no more harm, however well-intentioned. The present volatile situation in the country is for the moment a largely political shoving match between the divided and possibly ephemeral Shiite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his rivals, who include the Shiite radicals of Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Sunni, and largely ex-Baathist, Awakening Movement, sponsored by the U.S. Army to defend Sunni tribal regions against the foreigners of the fundamentalist al-Qaida. In addition, are the two Kurdish movements that together control, and plan to make independent and permanent, a Kurdistan nation incorporating—if they have their way—the oil-rich Kirkuk region.

One can make the political—and moral—argument that as the American invasion is responsible for the Iraqi upheaval, Washington should somehow settle it. The answer is that it’s impossible for Americans to do so. The U.S. cannot do it by continued military occupation and intervention in the country’s affairs.

Only the Iraqis themselves can settle this, and doing so may entail even more religious and ethnic struggle. The neighboring Shiite great power, Iran, will play its cards in the country. The Saudis will play theirs. Israel will do everything in its power to prevent an American withdrawal. All of this will probably add still more tragedies to those of the last six years, but at least the U.S. responsibility will have become only indirect, which is bad enough.

Barack Obama started off his presidential campaign by saying that he would get American troops out of Iraq by mid-2010. That was a strong, simple position that, if resolutely carried out, would make it clear to the Iraqis what they have to do to save themselves, and how long they have in which to do it.

Since the early campaign, the president-elect has been forced to qualify his position, weaken it, blur it, say that actually many U.S. troops probably will stay on, the dates may change, American involvement will continue, and so on. He has been forced back toward the Washington consensus opinion, the centrist and “responsible” position, close to the Bush opinion.

Nearly everyone is against his sticking to his original policy: The Iraq factions all plan to exploit American ambiguities to strengthen their own positions and maneuver the American command to favor them. The Kurds want time to make their proto-Kurdistan even more impregnable (while encouraging their reluctance to deal with Turkish and Iranian hostility to a sovereign Kurdistan, as well as deal realistically with their fellow Iraqis).

In Washington, the Pentagon is against withdrawal on Obama’s terms. It still wants permanent bases in Iraq. It claims Obama’s timetable is logistically impossible. The Republicans will shout “treason” and “betrayal.” American oil companies and the corporations that are already part of the occupation, as well as those that have big ambitions for moving into an American-secured Iraq, will demand that the U.S. stay.

All this must be resisted if Obama is to be his own man. He has to rid himself of George Bush’s folly. He must make Iraq truly independent. If he doesn’t, it could destroy his administration.

Visit William Pfaff’s Web site at www.williampfaff.com.

© 2008 Tribune Media Services Inc.

US and Iraq ‘agree on troops deal’

August 21, 2008
Al Jazeera, August 21, 2008

The White House has repeatedly resisted any timetable for withdrawing US troops [EPA]

The United States and Iraq have reportedly agreed to a draft deal to give US troops a legal basis to stay in Iraq after a United Nations mandate expires in December.

A senior US military official told The Associated Press that Washington had signed off on a draft agreement on reducing the American military presence in Iraq but that the deal was not final and was subject to approval by Iraqi leaders.

However, the US state department told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that any report of an agreement was “premature”.

The White House said that negotiations were still taking place.

“Discussions are ongoing with the Iraqis to finalise a bilateral agreement,” Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said.

“We are working to complete the agreement, but it is not final yet.”

Contentious issues

Al Jazeera’s Tom Ackerman said that with Iraqis facing provincial elections in the next few months, Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, will be facing pressure at home not to concede anything that will affect Iraqi sovereignty and to ensure a firm end date for US troop withdrawal is set.

But Mohammed al-Haj Hamoud, Iraq’s negotiator on the deal, told the Reuters news agency that the draft reportedly agreed to does not give a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq nor say if US troops will be subject to Iraqi law.

At present around 144,000 US troops are stationed in Iraq, but Iraqi officials have said they would like any future deal to limit the US presence on Iraqi streets by mid-2009 and withdraw all troops by 2010 or 2011.

The US government has said repeatedly that it will not seek permanent bases in Iraq.

However, it has also resisted setting any timetable for the withdrawal of troops, although last month the US government began referring to “time horizons” and “aspirational goals” for such a withdrawal.

Issues such as a timeline for withdrawing troops, their immunity from Iraqi law and the status of prisoners held by US forces have all caused repeated delays to a deal.

In May this year scores of protests against any such deal erupted in the capital, Baghdad, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, the Iraqi Shia leader.

Alongside the possible draft deal is a parallel agreement, known as a strategic framework agreement, which covers a range of political, economic and security relationships between the US and Iraq, that The Associated Press said had also been agreed to.

Iraq Demands ‘Very Clear’ US Troop Timeline

August 11, 2008
Common Dreams News Center
by Mohammed Abbas | Reuters 10, 2008

BAGHDAD – The United States must provide a “very clear timeline” to withdraw its troops from Iraq as part of an agreement allowing them to stay beyond this year, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said on Sunday.

It was the strongest public assertion yet that Iraq is demanding a timeline. U.S. President George W. Bush has long resisted setting a firm schedule for pulling troops out of Iraq, although last month the White House began speaking of a general “time horizon” and “aspirational goals” to withdraw.

Iraq’s leaders have become more confident of their ability to provide security on their own as the country has become safer. But bombings, which killed at least nine people on Sunday, were a reminder that it is still a violent place.

In an interview with Reuters, Zebari said the agreement, including the timeline, was “very close” and would probably be presented to the Iraqi parliament in early September.

Asked if Iraq would accept a document that did not include dates for a withdrawal, Zebari said: “No, no. Definitely there has to be a very clear timeline.”

“The talks are still ongoing. There’s been a great deal of progress. The deal is very close. It is about to be closed,” Zebari said of the agreement, which will replace a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the U.S. presence, which expires at the end of this year.

A sticking point in the negotiations is Washington’s wish that its troops be immune from Iraqi law. In July, Iraq’s deputy speaker of parliament told Reuters lawmakers would likely veto any a deal if this condition were granted.

Other hurdles include the power of the U.S. military to detain Iraqi citizens, and their authority to conduct military operations, Zebari said.

“Our negotiators have really found compromises on all these issues.”

ASSERTIVE STANCE

He would not be drawn on the precise dates that Iraqi negotiators are seeking for withdrawal, saying the document was not yet final. Iraqi officials have said they would like to see all combat troops out by October 2010.

An agreement that included that date would require the Bush administration effectively to accept a timeline almost identical to the one proposed by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who opposed the 2003 invasion.

“You may hear many dates, but I caution you not to take any of these dates until you get the final document,” Zebari said.

Iraq has taken an increasingly assertive stance in negotiations with the United States after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s forces scored military victories against militia groups this year, giving the government a confidence boost.

The high price of oil means the Iraqi treasury has more money for reconstruction projects than it can figure out how to spend, and violence is at a four-year low.

Still, U.S. commanders say they worry that a hasty withdrawal could allow violence to resume.

A suicide bomber blew up a bomb-laden minibus in the town of Khanaqin north of Baghdad, killing three people and wounding at least 20 on Sunday. Five roadside bomb attacks in Baghdad on Sunday killed a total of six people and wounded at least 26.

Iraqi politics have been paralysed by a dispute over the northern city of Kirkuk, which Kurds claim as the capital of their autonomous homeland. The issues threatens to stoke ethnic tensions between the city’s Kurds, Arabs and ethnic Turkmen.

That quarrel scuppered a law needed to allow provincial elections across the country, despite intensive lobbying by the United States and United Nations to reach a deal.

(Editing by Peter Graff and Mary Gabriel)

© 2008 Reuters


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