Q&A: Iraq braces for pullout as fledgling forces "not yet ready" without U.S. support
Iraqi security forces celebrate in Ramadi, Iraq. (AP)
In hopes of realizing its goal of full withdrawal by the end of 2011, the U.S. prepared to pull its troops from Iraqs urban areas by Tuesday, National Sovereignty Day. Some U.S. soldiers will remain in the cities to train and assist Iraqi forces; others will continue on combat missions in rural regions.
Michael Yon, author of Moment of Truth in Iraq and a former Green Beret, spoke with amNewYork about Tuesdays milestone.
What can be expected immediately after Tuesdays withdrawal?
Many Iraqis are very worried about our pullout. I cannot guess the potential for street riots, but an increase in violence is nearly assured.
How prepared are Iraqi security forces to take over these areas?
The Iraqi Security Forces [ISF] is a mixed bag and very much a work in progress. Some of the Police and Army are quite good and capable of managing their areas, but overall, the ISF is likely not yet ready to take on this job without our direct support.Will the insurgents change their tactics?
They constantly change. What we see now are not really insurgents like those we saw from 2003 through mid-2007. Whats left now are truly the dead enders that [former Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld talked about. The remaining terrorists have no real hope of overthrowing the Iraqi government.
The Iraqi Security Forces need years more to develop, but they are already a serious force to reckon with. The terrorists who continue to murder Iraqis are highly unlikely to unseat this government.
What is the public sentiment in Iraq toward the U.S.?
Again, this is a mixed bag. The Iraqis and Americans are now bound together by our history. Especially so in this war. In general, I do not see animosity towards Americans. Americans do not have animosity towards Iraqis. We have a permanent relationship that likely will only grow with time.
What impact will this have on other U.S. troops and Western workers in Iraq?
Iraq is a sovereign nation and will be increasingly responsible for security of western workers. Those workers will fall under laws of Iraq.
What are the security situations in Iraqs urban areas versus its rural areas?
Very mixed. Some areas of Baghdad have been safe for a long time. But we still see scattered attacks. Other areas, such as Mosul, are still contested very dangerous. Rural areas, such as out in Anbar and Diyala provinces, fall more under tribal law than GOI [government of Iraq] laws. The further you get from major cities, the more tribal it becomes. Tribal does not necessarily mean dangerous, but the laws of the land are different. The tribes are very powerful in rural areas.
How involved will the U.S. remain in Iraq and for how long?
We are brothers now. We might bicker and fight back and forth sometimes, but we are bound by our blood to stay involved. Iraq doesnt want to see America turn its back, and America has no intention of doing so. Our relationship, in my opinion, will slowly improve through the years. Our fighting days are over.
What security measures must be in place before the U.S. realizes its goal of a full withdrawal by the 2011 deadline?
We need to hear U.S. and Iraqi commanders saying that the ISF can handle internal and external threats. The Iraqi government and the Iraqi people are not our enemies. We shouldnt trip over ourselves getting out. Our withdrawal needs to be done in a rational, conditions-based way. Lets see how the remainder of 2009 plays out.