Eight years, eight months, and 14 days ago, then President George W. Bush initiated a war against the soveriegn nation of Iraq. Ostensibly in the interest of preventing more terrorist attacks, it was more of a whim, rationalized via ginned up "evidence". Hundreds of billions of dollars later (not to mention thousands of lives), this dark chapter in our nation's history is coming to an end.
As of today, the U.S. has handed the "keys" to the presidential palace over to the Iraqis
The handover of Victory Base marks a major milestone in the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as Washington consolidates its presence in Baghdad at its huge embassy on the Tigris River in the capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone.
Only 12,000 troops remain, down from a peak of about 170,000 at the height of the war. Almost all of the remaining forces are due to leave Iraq by the end of this year, except for a small contingent of under 200 attached to the U.S. embassy.
“The Victory Base Complex was officially signed over to the receivership of the Iraqi government this morning,” Colonel Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman, said by email. “The base is no longer under U.S. control and is now under the full authority of the Government of Iraq.”
This is a huge step forward for those of us who marched against the war in 2005, and have been pushing for our exit since. It has been a huge black hole in terms of money and lives and our nation's psyche, made all the worse with the knowledge that the rationale was all lies. We can all exhale now, and focus on ensuring the vets of that conflict get the medical and mental care they need, and a hand-up as they return to civilian life.
The other conflict in the Middle East still drags on. With the al-Qaeda and Taliban soldiers fighting a guerilla war and using Pakistan as a hideout (in some cases - with the blessing of Pakistan), tensions have grown between Pakistan and the U.S. A recent NATO airstrike that unintentionally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers has heightened tensions further.
Pakistan is irate, and demanding the U.S. apologize, something the U.S. says it will not do
The White House on Thursday dismissed the notion of offering an apology to Pakistan over the NATO air strikes that killed 24 soldiers, insisting an inquiry was still ongoing as to how the men died.
“I, speaking for the White House and the president, offered condolences on behalf of him, the administration, the American people, for the tragic loss of life,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “It was a tragedy.”
But he and other US officials have stopped short of offering any apology.
The problem, it seems, is that Pakistan authorized the airstrike
Pakistan said the attack was unprovoked, with officials calling it an act of blatant aggression.
U.S. officials, quoted in the Wall Street Journal, said Pakistani officials cleared the air strike unaware they had troops in the area.
The U.S. officials, giving their first detailed explanation of the worst friendly-fire incident of the 10-year-old war, said an Afghan-led assault force that included U.S. commandos was hunting Taliban militants when it came under fire from an encampment along the border with Pakistan, the Journal said in an online report.
The commandos thought they were being fired on by militants but the attackers turned out to be Pakistani military personnel, they were quoted as saying.
It's a huge mess when the border is so porous. This is the problem with Pakistan playing both sides. This can only get uglier. Perhaps the U.S. should hand off Afghanistan to Pakistan, since they seem so keen on maintaining the status quo with their neighbor. Maybe if they truly felt the weight of responsibility and the danger of dancing with the devil, they'd change their position.