During his run for president of the United States, Barack Obama pledged “to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.” Friday, the president confirmed his promise with an announcement that he will pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of this year. This fulfills one of the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement (SFA) with Iraq.
Over 4,400 American military lives have been lost since the Iraq war started in 2003, and the war has already cost the Americans over $806-billion.
According to the Huffington Post, there were reports the administration was looking for ways to renegotiate the SFA with the Iraqi government so as to prolong U.S. presence in that country. Such reports were troubling to many who had supported the Democrats in 2008—at least in part—because of Obama’s pledge to end the war.
Apparently, Americans and the Iraqis wanted to keep up to about 10,000 U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 deadline, despite their public protestations to the contrary. Negotiations were prompted by: (a) the Iraqis’ hope for more help in providing internal stability; and (b) the Americans’ fear of further encroachment by Iran. But the Iraq government faced opposition to the idea from Shia groups and Iraqi nationalists, and discussions over the precise number of and legal immunity for troops that would stay behind were stumbling blocks in the negotiations.
Of the 41,000 troops the Americans now have stationed in Iraq, only 4,000 to 5,000 security contractors will remain in the country after Dec. 31. This would end an occupation that, at its height in 2006, saw some 170,000 U.S. soldiers in that country.
The cost in American lives and treasure has been high, with over 4,400 American military lives having been lost since the war started in March, 2003 when U.S. President George W. Bush launched the U.S.’s “Shock And Awe” invasion of Iraq. More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have also been killed. And, according to a study by Amy Belasco, Specialist in U.S. Defense Policy and Budget, released last March, the war had already cost the Americans $806-billion.
Many pundits are convinced President Obama would not have been elected president had it not been for the Iraq War. His victory in the presidential primary elections was owed in no small part to support from his party’s antiwar wing—Hillary Clinton had become tainted by her vote for the invasion and he campaigned to bring the troops home. Now the debate will be over whether the president’s announcement will help him in next year’s election.
The Iraq promise kept and recent foreign policy victories—bin Laden’s and Gaddafi’s deaths—will no doubt play a role in the 2012 election; however, with the American economy in such poor shape and without much hope it will improve over the next 12 months, voters are likely to remember Bill Clinton’s now famous phrase, “It’s the economy stupid,” which seemed to resonate so well with them during his successful 1992 presidential campaign against George H. W. Bush.
I agree with Glen Bolger—a Republican pollster whose firm is working for former governor Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign—who said, “The election is much more about Americans losing their jobs than about Gaddafi losing his head.” And I’d say much the same about the president’s latest Iraq announcement.