Oh, pity the retreating hegemon– just for a fleeting second– as it starts to realize the implications of the drawdown of ts forces from Iraq, in compliance with the Withdrawal Agreement (PDF) concluded last November.
The WaPo’s Ernesto Londono and Karen De Young reported from Baghdad today that on July 2, two days after the deadline for the withdrawal of US forces from all the cities of Iraq,
- Iraq’s top commanders told their U.S. counterparts to “stop all joint patrols” in Baghdad. It said U.S. resupply convoys could travel only at night and ordered the Americans to “notify us immediately of any violations of the agreement.”
… U.S. commanders have described the pullout from cities as a transition from combat to stability operations. But they have kept several combat battalions assigned to urban areas and hoped those troops would remain deeply engaged in training Iraqi security forces, meeting with paid informants, attending local council meetings and supervising U.S.-funded civic and reconstruction projects.
… The Americans have been taken aback by the new restrictions on their activities. The Iraqi order runs “contrary to the spirit and practice of our last several months of operations,” Maj. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, commander of the Baghdad division, wrote in an e-mail obtained by The Washington Post.
“Maybe something was ‘lost in translation,’ ” Bolger wrote. “We are not going to hide our support role in the city. I’m sorry the Iraqi politicians lied/dissembled/spun, but we are not invisible nor should we be.” He said U.S. troops intend to engage in combat operations in urban areas to avert or respond to threats, with or without help from the Iraqis.
Hullo?! Earth to Gen. Bolger! Why did he think it would somehow be “okay” to keep “several combat battalions assigned to urban areas”?
Maybe he should go and read the text of the Withdrawal Agreement, as duly concluded between his (and my) government and the Government of Iraq last November.
The WA states, Article 24, clauses 1 and 2:
- 1. All the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.
2. All United States combat forces shall withdraw from Iraqi cities, villages, and localities no later than the time at which Iraqi Security Forces assume full responsibility for security in an Iraqi province, provided that such withdrawal is completed no later than June 30, 2009.
And in Article 4, clauses 1, 2, and 3:
- 1. The Government of Iraq requests the temporary assistance of the United States Forces for the purposes of supporting Iraq in its efforts to maintain security and stability in Iraq, including cooperation in the conduct of operations against Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, outlaw groups, and remnants of the former regime.
2. All such military operations that are carried out pursuant to this Agreement shall be conducted with the agreement of the Government of Iraq. Such operations shall be fully coordinated with the Iraqi authorities…
3. All such operations shall be conducted with full respect for the Iraqi Constitution and the laws of Iraq. Execution of such operations shall not infringe upon the sovereignty of Iraq and its nation interests, as defined by the Government of Iraq. It is the duty of the United States Forces to respect the laws, customs, and traditions of Iraq and applicable international law.
So it really is small wonder that the combat battalions Bolger had kept deployed– and also quite frequently employed– inside Baghdad and other cities since June 30 have been running into a lot of opposition from the Iraqi forces, and perhaps also from some para-military formations operating with the knowledge of the Baghdad government.
For example, as the waPo writers note, on Thursday night there was a mysteriously sourced “rocket strike on a U.S. base in Basra on Thursday night that killed three soldiers. ”
But why were those US soldiers still inside Basra at all?
Bolger says that the US forces inside urban areas have been engaging in operations to “to avert or respond to threats, with or without help from the Iraqis”?
Threats to whom? Threats to themselves and their own– at this point illegal– presence inside the cities, it seems.
Just get the heck out of the cities, Gen. Bolger! That is what our government agreed with the Iraqi government would happen.
But thus far, it apparently hasn’t. So it is the US forces that have been contravening the terms of the WA. And no amount of “spinning/lying/dissembling” on Gen. Bolger’s behalf can change that.
It is not clear to whom Bolger sent the reported email. But evidently he was venting some of his frustrations there:
- “Our [Iraqi] partners burn our fuel, drive roads cleared by our Engineers, live in bases built with our money, operate vehicles fixed with our parts, eat food paid for by our contracts, watch our [surveillance] video feeds, serve citizens with our [funds], and benefit from our air cover,” Bolger noted in the e-mail.
Poor cry-baby. He imagines the Iraqi people should be grateful that the US military marched in and smashed up their country?
Here’s another reading assignment for him:
Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement, “Property Ownership”:
- 1. Iraq owns all buildings, non-relocatable structures, and assemblies connected to the soil that exist on agreed facilities and areas, including those that are used, constructed, atered, or improved by the United States Forces.
2. Upon their withdrawal, the United States Forces shall return to the Government of Iraq all the facilities and areas provided fro the use of the combat forces of the United States…
Just get out, Gen. Bolger. Stop chasing phantoms and your own tail there. I am sure that once the Iraqi people and their government see you exiting the cities fully as per the WA, and complying with all its other terms, they will be happy to leave you alone.
The WA and international law demand that you withdraw from the cities, and only come back in with the explicit agreement of the Iraqi government. And guess what, the US public and Congress are in strong support of the WA.
(I’ll just note parenthetically here that the WaPo piece is also larded with allegations from un-named US officials that, under Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki’s rapidly expanding sovereignty, all kinds of Iranian-backed splinter groups– with pathetically mis-transliterated names– are now active in Iraq and striking at US targets. That’s what I mean by chasing phantoms… )