On the Regarding War blog, soldiers, veterans, and journalists will share their stories from Afghanistan, Iraq and other war zones. It will feature personal stories and opinions from those who have first-hand knowledge of past and current conflicts. Those at home directly affected by a family member serving in the military will also contribute. The blog is meant to be a place where ideas are exchanged and experiences are related in an effort to gain a better understanding of the realities and effects of war. Share your thoughts, raise a question, and join the conversation by leaving comments on the posts.
We lead this week not with news from Afghanistan but with a big move in Iraq. On Wednesday, two weeks ahead of the August 31 deadline set by President Obama to end combat operations, the last major U.S. combat brigade left Iraq. When the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team rolled out of Iraq and into Kuwait, it signaled the end of one phase of the war that started seven years and five months ago. 50,000 U.S. troops will remain, but instead of combat operations, they will be engaged in aiding and training Iraqi forces. Under a bilateral agreement with Iraq's government, all U.S. fighting troops must be out of the country by the end of next year.
Despite this major event in this long war, the White House is not hanging any Mission Accomplished banners in celebration. Instead, it is downplaying the event, emphasizing that there is still much work to be done.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said Thursday, "it was an extraordinary moment. The men and women in this brigade and all others serving tours of duty in Iraq deserve our sincerest thanks for their enormous sacrifice. But this brigade leaving doesn't mean the mission has ended early. Operation Iraqi Freedom ends August 31, and on September 1 we transition to Operation New Dawn."
The new dawn will need to take into account the ambitions of Iraq's neighbors. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Syria each seek to extend their influence in the region.
What's the feeling in Baghdad about the U.S. ending combat operations? Not as rosy as you might think. Take a listen to Lubna Naji, a 24-year-old medicine studies graduate from Baghdad, who shares her feelings about the U.S. ending combat operations.
A suicide bomber killed 59 people waiting in line at an army recruitment center in Baghdad on Tuesday, a somber reminder that this week does not signal the end of violence in Iraq.
For an update in Afghanistan this week, I present this informative recap from The Long War Journal, which details the progress made in the past week by Afghan and Coalition operations against the Taliban in the southern Afghan provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. It also includes some background information about the battles waged in those southern provinces, providing some scope to our efforts there.
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