U.S. withdrawal from Iraq more linked to deadline, timetable than actual strategy, American expert says   2010-08-13 06:50:03 FeedbackPrintRSS

by Liza Jansen

U.S soldiers take up position during a patrol in Kerbala U.S soldiers take up position during a patrol in Kerbala, 80 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad July 17, 2010.  (Xinhua/Reuters)

U.S soldiers take up position during a patrol in Kerbala, 80 km south of Baghdad July 17, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters)

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. pullout of Iraq is only linked to a deadline and a timetable, rather than an actual strategy, and the United Nations, which maintains a mission in Iraq, has to deal with the drawdown, an American expert said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Joost Hiltermann, an expert on political issues in Iraq, made the statement only days after U.S. President Barack Obama had announced that the withdrawal of thousands of American troops from Iraq would "as promised and on schedule" be done by the end of this month, and the UN Security Council decided to extend its mission in Iraq for another year.

Although the decisions come particularly quick one after the other, they are not related, Hiltermann told Xinhua. "The American withdrawal is more linked to a deadline and a timetable than to an actual strategy. President Obama promised to do this two years ago, the war for him was always a war of choice, not of necessity."

The U.S. is "on target to end the combat mission," the White House announced on Wednesday, the Obama administration resonates the war in Iraq as a relative success story and the drawdown for the Obama administration is seen as the closing of a chapter, said Hiltermann, who is working with the International Crisis Group, a think-tank based in Washington.

President Obama declared in a speech last week violence continued to be at the lowest it had been in years and in August several events will be held to honor returning soldiers and promote the drawdown.

But violence resurged in July with the death toll reaching an alarming two-year high and commentary circulates the Aug. 31 deadline is a self-imposed political one, a fulfillment of a policy promise.

Saddam Hussein's former deputy Tareq Aziz accused the U.S. president of "leaving Iraq to the wolves" in an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian last week.

Aziz, whose long tenure as Saddam's foreign minister made him the international face of the Iraqi dictator regime, currently resides in jail in Baghdad. At first he was hopeful about President Obama's plans, but he told the newspaper the country was in a worse state than before the war, calling Obama "a hypocrite." "When you make a mistake you need to correct a mistake, not leave Iraq to its death," Aziz said.

Hiltermann said that he did not take Aziz's comment too seriously. "Commentary also circulates about the shiny democracy that's coming now," he said. "I think there are reasons to be concerned about what will be left behind once American forces leave."

"I don't think we face a best case scenario of a brilliant new democracy in the Middle East, far from it, at this point the priority ought to be to have a relatively stable Iraq that becomes stronger over time," Hiltermann said.

On Sept. 1, Operation Iraqi Freedom officially becomes Operation New Dawn, having the fewest American boots -- 50,000 -- on the ground since 2003 who will continue until the end of 2011.

Editor: yan

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