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US troops withdraw from key Iraqi cities

Most people now recognize the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 to be a mistake, given that it had negative consequences in a variety of different areas (we’ll talk about that later). The invasion led to Iraq becoming a magnet for Islamic fighters from all over, unleashed the sectarian divisions that had been brutally suppressed by Saddam Hussein, led to horrific casualties among the population in the fighting that followed, and scared the neighboring countries (other than Iran), since it led to a Sunni ruled state becoming a Shia ruled state. It also put the United States in a position which was deemed comparable to Vietnam in the sense that mere military might did not lead to a winning position, and dealt huge blows to the armed forces of the US (to both the regular army and to the National Guard).
The issue about getting the army back from Iraq played a major role in the last Presidential campaign, and there is a lot of pressure on Obama to bring back the military; with majority public support being to bring back the army. For many years, it was unclear as to what the timeline for this would be ! However, in the last year or so, the US finally managed to get the right alliances (including with the Sunni minority, elements of which would have been fighting the American forces just a few months back). It was only this reduction of violence, along with fledging steps taken by the Iraqi army and police force (another self-created problem – the initial US head of the Provisional Authority had dissolved the Iraqi army as a contaminated Baathist organization without making any contingency plans). The situation in Iraq now, although not as secure as the US would have liked to see in an ideal world, is enough that the US is able to do the major symbolic action of withdrawing its forces from 6 major Iraqi cities (link to article):

US troops are withdrawing from towns and cities in Iraq, six years after the invasion, having formally handed over security duties to new Iraqi forces. A public holiday – National Sovereignty Day – has been declared, and the capital, Baghdad, threw a giant party to mark the eve of the changeover. US-led combat operations are due to end by September 2010, with all troops gone from Iraq by the end of 2011.
Some 131,000 US troops remain in Iraq, including 12 combat brigades, and the total is not expected to drop below 128,000 until after the Iraqi national election next January. The US Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, said there would be no major reduction in forces until next year but the pullback was a “milestone”.

The current Iraqi Government is treating the event as a major watershed in its regaining of the total control of Iraq, since the presence of US troops in the cities ensured that the Iraqi Government could not take many steps that they would have liked (such as when the Government wanted to apply pressure on Sunni sections in the cities, they had to face some resistance from the US army). With the general elections also due in the next few months, the Iraqi Government is sure to use the opportunity to claim this withdrawal as a victory.
However, the withdrawal does not really reduce the number of troops in the country, and many of the problems that Iraq faces are still there:
1. Security remains a problem
2. Simmering tension between the Sunni and Shia factions remains in place, increased by the impending elections and signs of fraud
3. The army and police are still not upto the required level of training, and not free from factional bias

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