Out of Iraq

A SECRET British memo leaked by London’s Daily Mail talks of the US-led coalition in Iraq working on an exit strategy. The memo reveals plans by the United States and its ally Britain seeking to drastically reduce their presence in Iraq and hand over the security of the war-ravaged country to the new government in Baghdad.

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Published: Wed 13 Jul 2005, 9:54 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:44 PM

The handover is expected to take place within a year. While the US is planning to cut down its troop strength from the current 140,000 to 60,000, UK will scale down its presence to only 3,000 from the present 8,000. If the Mail report is true —it hasn’t been denied by US, UK —this means the US-led coalition will be cutting down its strength almost by 60 per cent.

Doubtless, this is the most positive and credible sign of an exit strategy by the US-led coalition in Iraq. This should silence US critics who have been insisting that America is in Iraq for good. The US move would be welcomed around the world and at home in America where concern has been growing about the long-term presence in Iraq. This also strengthens the argument that the US had come to Iraq with a purpose and is not going to stay in the country when its business is finished —in this case bringing down a dictator.

But is the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Al Jaafari ready for the daunting task of dealing with Iraq’s security?

If Iraq’s new government is going to be handed over the responsibility of security as it should be within a year, the coalition and Iraqi government must speed up the training of Iraqi security forces. Although thousands of young Iraqis have been trained for the job already, a lot still needs to be done on this front. The new government would do well to involve the old members of disbanded Iraqi army in the security set-up. They can prove a great help in dealing with the insurgents.

In this regard, the cooperation of Iraq’s neighbours is crucial. It is hardly a secret that many of the insurgents have been entering Iraq through its porous borders from the neighbouring countries. Iraq’s neighbours therefore have to demonstrate greater sincerity and responsibility in helping the Iraqi government deal with the threat of insurgency. Insurgency is not only Iraq’s headache. If the continuing terror of insurgency destabilises Iraq, its neighbours cannot remain unaffected.

Iraqi president Jalal Talabani’s suggestion of a meeting of interior ministers of the region to deal with the insurgency threat is a good idea. This is a threat that Iraq and its neighbours would have to face together.

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