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Weekly News Roundup: Operation New Dawn, reaction from Iraqis and U.S. soldiers

written by Matt Elliott
on September 03, 2010

The United States officially ended its combat mission in Iraq this week. During his speech from the Oval Office Tuesday night, President Obama addressed the nation to mark the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He highlighted the "enormous sacrifices" U.S. troops have made and stated that they have "completed every mission they were given." He also pledged again to bring all of our troops in Iraq home by the end of next year while also outlining the additional forces he's sending to fight Al Qaida in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Vice President Biden was in Baghdad to signal the end of the U.S. combat mission. He spoke from one of Saddam Hussein's old palaces of the challenges Iraq faces as it attempts to form a legitimate central government. Despite the many obstacles that remain, Biden is encouraged by the current negotiations by Iraqi leaders, quipping, "Politics has broken out in Iraq." This blog post from the Los Angeles Times has highlights and the full transcript of Biden's speech.

As Operation New Dawn begins, many news organizations rightly asked what will happen now that we've entered a new phase of the war in Iraq.

This article from Time Magazine describes the Iraq the U.S. is leaving as unstable and vulnerable, calling it "a weak state beset by a long-term pattern of political crisis and vulnerable to the machinations of outsiders."

This AP article makes the point that although the combat mission in Iraq has ended, the fight against terrorism continues.

"Hawija, 150 miles north of Baghdad, was once a hub for Sunni militants. In the raid early Wednesday, about 80 U.S. soldiers teamed up with more than 1,000 Iraqis to arrest about 60 terrorism suspects."

From Reuters, we get details on how the United States' role immediately changes now that Iraqi forces are taking the lead. "Six U.S. military brigades will remain in Iraq ahead of a full withdrawal by the end of 2011" and "will no longer be taking an active part in most joint operations with Iraqi security forces. Instead they will observe these missions and use them to see how they can improve training."

In an Al Jazeera report from Baghdad, Iraqis share their thoughts and concerns about what the future holds as the U.S. presence wanes. Judging from the interviews, basic necessities such as water and electricity are of greater concern than security.

These concerns are echoed in this The New York Times blog post, where Iraqis in Mosul, Basra, and two neighborhoods in Baghdad react to Obama's speech and the U.S. withdrawal.

"I was busy with my broken generator. I want Obama to give us power instead of words."

From the other side, in this video U.S. troops reflect on their time in Iraq and what the future may hold from them and the Iraq they leave behind.

As the U.S. withdraws its troops from Iraq, it is ramping up efforts in Afghanistan. Gen. David Petraeus spoke of the special forces operations in Afghanistan, which he estimated are four times more frequent than at their height in Iraq.

"In the last 24 hours, eight raids netted three targeted individuals and may have nabbed four more still to be confirmed, Petraeus told reporters traveling with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen in the Afghan capital, Kabul."

For a broader view of the fight we still face in Afghanistan, this article, taking a look at the history of militancy in Afghanistan, provides a preview of what could follow the U.S. withdrawal.

And lastly, excerpts from a New Delhi-based war correspondent for Sky News offer a fascinating look from a journalist who has embedded with forces from both sides of the Afghan war.

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