By Robert Schlesinger |
The short answer is 'yes.' The American troop withdrawal completed on December 15 jeopardizes both the progress and the sacrifice made over the last 10 years in Iraq.
The Obama administration has chosen a reckless course of action. It withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq before victory had been consolidated. This will allow the president to claim a major campaign promise fulfilled before the next presidential election. Not only that, but in the rush to get out, the administration clumsily failed even to negotiate terms for extending the troop presence before the deadline ran out.
Let us not forget, the Bush administration also planned to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. But their plan called for keeping a number of U.S. forces in Iraq as trainers and advisors, a far more responsible course of action.
For the Iraqi people, the consequences of the premature American withdrawal will be instability, resurgence of terrorism and an uncertain future for Iraq's fledgling democracy. On December 22, a wave of violent, coordinated attacks killed at least 57 people, and just days after the December 15th withdrawal ceremony, the dominantly Shiite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki purged many Sunni Arab leaders. Political instability is sure to follow. The Iraqi army and air force training will suffer as will air operations, the Iraqi air force having few helicopters and planes.
For U.S. national security, likewise, the Obama administration's action will be detrimental. American counter-terrorism efforts will suffer as opportunities for intelligence gathering and surveillance will disappear. And of course the real winner in the Middle East will be Iran, whose interference in Iraqi politics and violations of its borders are sure to intensify. The Obama administration has washed its hands of an inconvenient war it never wanted. For this, many others will pay a steep price.
About Helle Dale Senior Fellow in Public Diplomacy Studies at the Heritage Foundation
Daniel J. Gallington Senior Policy and Program Adviser at the George C. Marshall Institute