Amid fireworks and celebrations, American troops today withdrew from Iraqi cities as part of an agreement timetable that is schduled to have troops out of that embattled country by the end of 2011.
The celebration over the withdrawal of troops was not shared by former Vice President Dick Cheney, who predicted dire consequences as a result of the withdrawal.
When the invasion of Iraq began in 2003, Cheney predicted American troops would be greeted as liberators. That never happened.
But most of Iraq is cheering now.
U.S. combat troops, under agreement with the Iraqi government, abandoned the country’s cities today amid public celebrations and private concerns over Iraq’s future security.
The government declared today a national holiday. Official cars were decorated with streamers and flowers. Martial music and history documentaries filled television screens.
U.S. and Iraqi officials both greeted the end to American urban combat positively. “We feel confident in the Iraqi security forces continuing the process of taking over the security tasks in their own country,” General David Petraeus, who heads U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, said yesterday in Cairo. On the eve of the pullout, U.S. military officials in Baghdad handed a symbolic gold key to the Defense Ministry building to Iraqi counterparts.
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, in remarks broadcast on Iraqi television, said the Iraqi government “is confident of the capabilities of our armed and security forces to handle security issues and control the situation despite the attacks and explosions.” The country has been hit by a series of car and suicide bombs that killed about 250 people in the past two weeks.
The American pullout is a step toward a complete U.S. withdrawal from all of Iraq at the end of 2011. The schedule was set under an agreement reached last November between the Bush administration and the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. President Barack Obama wants to reduce U.S. troop strength in Iraq, currently at 131,000, to no more than 50,000 by August, 2010.
However, the day was also marred by the deaths of four American troops.
Cheney, always the predictor of doom, gave an interview to the right-wing Washington Times:
Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday said he is concerned about U.S. forces withdrawing from Iraqi cities within 24 hours.
Mr. Cheney told The Washington Times’ "America’s Morning News" radio show that he is a strong believer in Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and that the general is doing what needs to be done.
"But what he says concerns me: That there is still a continuing problem. One might speculate that insurgents are waiting as soon as they get an opportunity to launch more attacks."
More than 250 people have died in Iraq during the past week in attacks and bombings, which appear designed to shake the government’s confidence and reignite sectarian fighting.
Much of the violence is in northeastern Baghdad, where hostile acts have occurred about once every other day.