The other day I shot out a tweet about the end of the Iraq Campaign. I said that I had some thoughts on it. I will share those, but first I thought it was worth mentioning that the war is not over. The war, is the Global War on Terrorism. The campaigns of this war are Afghanistan and Iraq. The Iraq campaign has ended.. not the war.
Having said that…
Here are some thoughts on the Iraq campaign as we knew it and as it has now changed. First of all let me speak to the man power issue AKA Soldiers.
While many soldiers will be returning to either their state side assignments or homes as the case is for our Reserve component soldiers, the United States military will not be leaving Iraq anytime soon. Following the end of combat action in World War II the United States committed to the stabilization of Europe. We are still there.
After the “cease fire” in Korea on 27 July 1953, the United States Army moved to the DMZ and there it has remained. Vietnam has been a different story, but history, even recent history including the 1991 Gulf War proved that we were in the “Stabilizing” business. The Army has maintained a presence in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait since 1991. The infrastructure, personnel, and ability to quickly mass forces in that region are in place and will not move any time soon.
So now that we know a bit about history and how we do our business, it is clear to see that although the campaign is over and the bulk of the combat forces will be redeploying to their next assignments, we are hardly out of Iraq.
The Iraqi government, military, and civil authorities are now in charge, but we will maintain our watchful eye on a region of the globe that is extremely volatile.
So here are my thoughts.
I served in Iraq at the beginning of the campaign. Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 1 in 2003. Each new phase of OIF was marked with a number. I was part of OIF 1, OIF 1 was the Liberation of Iraq and later OIF 2 was the second deployment of combat units and Transition of Iraq, OIF 3 began the rebuilding and Governance of the country, then the surge (2007), all phases of OIF since have led to stability in Iraq.
What I saw in opening phase of OIF was a country that was in need of change. 30 + years living under the control of a dictator and his mob had taken its toll on the country. The people were beaten down and looking for nothing more than getting on with their lives in peace.
My Battalion was assigned a sector just outside Baghdad, a farming community that hated the Saddam regime. They wanted to farm and live.. and beyond that really had little to worry about. They loved us and appreciated the ousting of Saddam. The town connecting to Hilla is Haswa. It is the most dangerous place I have ever seen. Haswa, unlike Hilla, was not a friendly place. It was a haven for insurgents. We found countless cache’s of weapons and munitions in Haswa along with “bad guys” that really did not appreciate our disruption of their gang activity.
They had very little loyalty to any one good or bad and no real cause other than to cause harm. They had a problem with us treating the population of Hilla medically and assisting with the opening of Schools and care facilities.
The city of Baghdad was pretty much the same, as could be said for many of the hot spots that you have heard about on the local news. Pretty much thugs trying to impose their will on the people seeking peace and those that were sent there to make sure it happened… Us.
By the time we redeployed on Easter of 2004, the area we operated in was starting to adjust to their new way of life.. Freedom.
Still the thugs tried to keep the people down and gangs grew out of the instability. Back here in the states, the news called them Sunnis and Shiites.. but religion (at least in Iraq) played very little if not any part in combat operations or why ‘they’ were fighting.
From the way I saw it the only thing that separated the Sunni from the Shi’ite was a highway. They had different color flags and the tops of their Mosques (used many for storage.. not prayer) were colored either Green or Blue.
The reason I think stabilization is so important is because of the tribal nature of the people of Iraq. I think that they now have had a taste of freedom and democracy.. in what ever form they are happy with, but just like in Germany, they will need to have a force their to ensure they stay on the right track.
The other consideration here is the we have a platform in Iraq to project force. Strategically, Iraq is right smack dab in the middle of the some of the hottest spots on the planet. Say what you will… this is the business we the people (via our representatives) have gotten us into. I am not going to debate that with anyone. I have been to war and do not wish that on anyone. It seems to be a necessary evil, proven to be that way since the beginning of time. As long as there are governments, terrorist, and those that oppress others.. well we will have to fight them.
So what do I think about the end of the Iraq campaign. I think it is a little late in coming, but at the end of the day, its all just dates on the calender. We will not leave Iraq for a long time. We will maintain a presence in the region for years to come. Combat forces will be moved to the Afghanistan campaign and we will continue to fight the Global War on Terrorism until our Government or the people have truly had enough. I do not see that happening for some time either.
Every day soldiers ruck up and deploy in support of the GWOT. I pray that they all return home in one piece physically, I am certain that they will never be the same.
Have a Great Scouting Day!