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July 10, 2008

Last of the surge troops leave Iraq

Greetings from Iraq! I will be reporting -- and blogging -- from here for a couple of weeks. I have been here for a few days, and I have so many interesting things to tell you. Here is the quick summation. Iraq is definitely safer than when I was here six months ago, and yet there is a patina of angst over the city. People cannot see how the security gains will sustain.

In the meantime, the last of the five surge brigades has left, the U.S. military announced today. Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, left their base just southeast of Baghdad. They are scheduled to land back to Fort Stewart, Ga., later this month. So that means roughly 140,000 troops are left in Iraq, or 8,000 more than when the surge plan began in February 2007.

Does this mean the surge strategy is officially over? And if so, what is the new plan? In a strange way, I miss the idiosyncratic lexicon assigned to these strategies. No one has yet to brand this period, post-"The New Way Forward." From what I can tell, more responsibility will be handed over to the Iraqi troops. And their U.S. counterparts will stay in the foreground to figure out whether the Iraqi troops can handle the situation.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki suggested earlier this week that the U.S. and Iraq should agree on a withdrawal timeline as part of a status of forces agreement. That is, he is pushing for change even faster. Yet everyone here privately concedes that they don’t think the Iraqi troops can handle a major attack by the militia or insurgents. Not yet anyway.

So you can imagine why Iraqis are so anxious. All signs are pointing to a safer Iraq, and yet it is not clear who will be in charge of keeping it secure from now onward. Or how?

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Comments

Steve

I look forward to reading both your stories and your posts here.

Trevor Pyle

I can't help but wonder what Maliki's motivations are. part of me want to say "don't look a gift horse in the mouth, let's get out of there while we can", and the other part of me thinks "will Iran be in there six months after we leave"?
If I were the United States government, considering all of the rhetoric I've heard over the last month aboutthe performance of the Iraqi police and military, I would welcome an OFFICIAL request by the Iraqi government to leave. It would be good for our military and especially good for the McCain campaign, who could say that the Surge they advocated truly WAS a "Mission Accomplished".

I think it's an opportunity to leave with honor, keep a substantial force located in Quatar and Kuwait, and rebuild our military infrastructure.

Here's one McCain supporter praying that Maliki isn't posturing and is truly going to officially ask for our withdrawal.

Nancy Youssef

William: Duly noted and corrected. Thanks for pointing it out. Nancy

William Ockham

I think you meant "The New Way Forward" rather than "The New Way Foreward", but maybe not. A foreward is a short introduction to someone else's longer work. Maybe this is the "The New Way Foreward" to McCain's 100 years in Iraq.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

"Nukes & Spooks" is written by McClatchy correspondents Jonathan S. Landay (national security and intelligence), Warren P. Strobel (foreign affairs and the State Department), and Nancy Youssef (Pentagon).

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Landay, Youssef and Strobel.

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