Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pulling out of Iraq: The Camp Ramadi hand-over

Every day I get at least five press releases in my inbox from MNFI headquarters in Iraq, and each press release in itself tells an individual story -- but if you start viewing all the releases as a whole, various trends and themes start to pop out.

For instance, after seeing over a dozen press releases about how this or that soldier died in a "non-combat-related incident", one begins to suspect that the Army is still having problems with their new up-armored MRAP vehicles' tendency to roll over while going around curves.

Or if one continually sees stories about how this or that electrical sub-station or school or medical clinic is now up and running, then one might assume that after almost six long brutal grueling years, the civil sector of Iraq is almost beginning to get back to where it was before 2003 -- before Bush and Cheney's catastrophic Shock & Awe misadventure in Baghdad led to the unnecessary waste of over 600 billion American taxpayers' dollars, and the death of 4,236 American soldiers and approximately one million Iraqis.

Lately, however, I've been noticing a new trend in the MNFI press releases -- their public affairs officers have started to write more and more about handing over various kinds of American stuff to Iraqis, including press releases such as "Iraqis Take Control of Joint Security Station Ghazaliyah III" and "U.S. Turns Over International Zone Security Responsibility to Iraq" and "Coalition transfers 4,000th Humvee to Government of Iraq".

So far I have pretty much ignored this trend -- figuring it was just too good to be true. But on January 27, 2009, I got a press release in my inbox that even I couldn't ignore. It actually said that American forces were giving Camp Ramadi back to the Iraqis! And they actually used the P-word -- Pulling Out.

According to a MNFI press release entitled "Government of Iraq signs for Camp Ramadi", this event is "a step toward Coalition forces pulling out and handing complete responsibility and control back over to the Iraqis. 'This is very important for Coalition forces because we are handing the land back over to the Iraqis,' said [Maj. Gen. Martin] Post. 'It shows that the U.S. military and the Coalition forces are starting to prepare to turn over and demilitarize the bases that we have been using for the past five years."'

Maybe American forces actually have begun the pull-back out of Iraq and President Obama is actually keeping his campaign promises.

But then I read the press release's fine print. "[T]he 81st Brigade Combat Team, Washington Army National Guard, acts as a tenant agreement for the Coalition forces who are scheduled to remain on Camp Ramadi through 2011.... Force protection measures will not be changed. All camp improvement projects will continue. Iraqis will take a look at the buildings on Camp Ramadi to see if it is something they want to keep. The physical structures built on Camp Ramadi will either be prepared to be handed over in 2011 or torn down. Part of the agreement is for Coalition forces to put the base back to the way they found it."

So. The real, actual base take-over isn't really going to happen until 2011. But, hey, this press release could actually be signaling the beginning of a slow and orderly pull-out of American troops from Iraq -- and the start of a new trend.