American Pullout Would Shatter Democratic Hopes

A swift end to the multinational military presence would lead to mayhem, with the army still incapable of holding down armed militias and al-Qaeda insurgents.

American Pullout Would Shatter Democratic Hopes

A swift end to the multinational military presence would lead to mayhem, with the army still incapable of holding down armed militias and al-Qaeda insurgents.

The crisis in Iraq – specifically the issue of whether United States troops should stay on or leave - has been a focal point for campaigning in the US congressional elections.



The more hawkish Republicans wish to continue the “war on terror” to prove the success of their policies on Iraq and Afghanistan. They are doing their best to prevent the US and its people from witnessing another September 11, 2001 attack.



The Democrats, meanwhile, favour an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, just as in the Nineties, when they wanted to lift the economic sanctions that the international community imposed on Saddam Hussein’s regime following the invasion of Kuwait in 1991.



The issue of a US withdrawal from Iraq is debated as hotly inside that country as it is by the Americans.



I believe withdrawing the multinational forces from Iraq now would be a disaster, as it could lead to an unstoppable sectarian conflict.



Claims by clerics and politicians in Iraq and other Arab countries that they want the "occupying" forces to withdraw so as to give more power and sovereignty to the Iraqi people, restore security, and launch the reconstruction process, are quite unrealistic. These people cannot see the other side of the coin – or they avoid looking at it.



The moment the troops go home, numerous problems will appear.



First, we will see armed militias become a dominant force. By militias, I do not mean just the existing groups controlled by political parties and religious groups, but new ones that will be formed for a variety of reasons and driven by different interests.



Second, Iraq’s security and military apparatus is still under construction and is incapable of imposing security over the whole country. The army has about 100,000 soldiers, not enough to establish control. The recently-created military lacks technology as well as manpower. I recall US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld noting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s plea for good-quality weapons instead of the Eastern European arms that had been provided.



This means that the Iraqi forces are playing only a supporting role to the multinational troops, who are looking after security - not "occupying the country" – as they have the up-to-date military equipment that allows them to stand up to the terrorists and criminals.



Third, a US withdrawal is the goal of the al-Qaeda network, the main insurgent group active in Iraq, which continues to receive support from neighbouring countries despite the death of its leader Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi.



If the multinational forces pulled out, life would become very easy for al-Qaeda, which uses Islam as cover for murder, kidnappings and attacks on other religions. They want to take us back to the dark ages, and after failing in Afghanistan, Iraq is their last hope.



I think American forces should stay in Iraq for another five years at least, and then discuss whether and how to leave.



By that time, the Iraqi people will have learnt how to negotiate with one another, and how to get away from the Baathist culture of totalitarianism. At that point, the militias will, one hopes, no longer exist. God willing, instead of guns, people will be using axes and pens as tools to rebuild their war-torn country.



An American withdrawal from Iraq before the mission of promoting democracy in the region has been accomplished would disappoint those Iraqis who have been dreaming of a good, peaceful country ever since merciful God saved them from the tyranny that had oppressed them for decades.



It would also disappoint democrats all over the Middle East.



Haydar al-Musawi is an IWPR contributor in Baghdad. This is one of two opinion pieces presenting alternative viewpoints on the debate over whether (and when) US-led forces should leave Iraq.

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