US to pull out of Iraq, Afghanistan


Maj. Eric Tisland looks into the eyes of his son, Gabriel Tisland, as his wife and the rest of his children greeted him home to Ft. Carson, Colo., Friday, Oct. 21, 2011. All U.S. troops “will definitely be home for the holidays,” President Barack Obama declared Friday, in his statement that the war in Iraq will be over by year’s end. More than 4,400 members of the military have been killed, and more than 32,000 have been wounded in the war that has stretched more than eight years. (AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Jerilee Bennett)

By Kelly Bauer

The war is over – almost.

In an announcement Friday, President Barack Obama said almost every troop in Iraq will be withdrawn by Dec. 31.

About 150 of the 39,000 troops will remain to assist in arms sales, according to CNN. This mass withdrawal of troops means the end to Operation Iraqi Freedom. The end to the war had been a promise of Obama’s during his 2008 presidential campaign.

“As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end, for the sake of our national security and the strength of American leadership around the world,” Obama said during the announcement.

Obama made similar statements in the past, but Friday’s announcement was a confirmation that his withdrawal plans are on track.

“The decision was not a surprise,” said Christopher Jones, political science professor and associate vice provost for University Honors. “In making the announcement, President Obama even used the words, ‘as promised.’ He separated himself from other Democratic presidential challengers in 2008 in his opposition to the Iraq war.”

The confirmation of the end of the war was not met with widespread vocal celebration at NIU. Some students had not even heard of Obama’s announcement: Freshman undecided major Sadari Jackson and Rudolf Musika, senior mechanical engineering major, said they did not know of Obama’s Friday announcement.

“I think there are a few reasons for the lack of student awareness and interest,” Jones said. “Certainly, the length of the war is part of the equation. People became accustomed to a U.S. presence in Iraq.”

Jones said other factors may play a role in the lack of student interest: a lack of a momentous endpoint, like V-E Day at the end of World War II; the media’s decreased coverage of U.S. involvement in Iraq; and a lack of a personal connection if a student does not have a loved one deployed in Iraq. Jones said the media’s lack of coverage has “remove[d] it as an issue from the public’s daily attention.”

“In fact, the economy, Libya and other stories have overshadowed coverage of the more important military story: the war in Afghanistan,” Jones said.

However, Musika said he and his friends talk about the war in Iraq and other concerns they have about the world.

“Seniors, juniors, we talk about this,” Musika said. “When we’re socializing, we talk about things like Iraq, like North Korea.”

Jackson said she was anticipating the end to Operation Iraqi Freedom because she has discussions about international conflicts in her classes. She said she stays informed on the war because “it actually means something” to her.

“We had a discussion in my HIST 261 class. [Obama’s announcement] was something I was anticipating,” Jackson said. “We need our troops home. We don’t necessarily know what they’re fighting for anymore.”

Besides the end of the war in Iraq, Obama also confirmed that troop withdrawals would begin in Afghanistan, where Operation Enduring Freedom has been fought since 2001.

“This is not a new development,” Jones said. “President

Barack Obama announced in June 2011 that all the 33,000 additional U.S. forces he ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 would be home within 15 months. Obama said 10,000 of these ‘surge’ forces would withdraw by the end of this year, and the other 23,000 would leave Afghanistan by September 2012.”

The removal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan signals an end to both wars, but also means that the governments in both areas could destabilize.

“This is a major concern,” Jones said. “Both countries are strong candidates for ethnic and religious sectarian violence in the absence of a U.S. military presence.”

Jones said Iraq has a chance to remain stable but that he is “not at all optimistic” about the situation in Afghanistan, where he said the Karzai government is “corrupt, inept, and faces shrinking control over the country.” Musika said he thought the U.S. should withdraw troops, but the government should also “keep an eye in there.”

“If sectarian divisions can remain in check in Iraq, and that’s a big ‘if,’ Iraq has the potential to be a functioning Arab – not Western – democracy in which citizens are granted a number of individual rights and liberties,” Jones said. “Iraq has the benefit of being a much wealthier country and Iraqis from different religious and ethnic factions may realize it is in their self and collective interests to build and sustain a stable, democratic Iraq. Granting local autonomy to the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds would also help matters.”

During his announcement, Obama said new ties of trade, commerce, culture and education would be made between the U.S. and Iraq. He also said discussions would continue on how the U.S. can help Iraq train and equip its forces.

“After all, there will be some difficult days ahead for Iraq and the United States will continue to have an interest in an Iraq that is stable, secure, and self-reliant,” Obama said.

Obama said the coming December would be a time to reflect on what Americans have gone through in the war, and a time for honoring veterans. He said the tide of war is receding and the end of the war reflects “a larger transition.”

“After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” Obama said. “The coming months will be a season of homecomings. Our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays.”