In pursuit of Obama's 2008 campaign promise, the US forces formally marked end of their nine years mission in Iraq on Thursday. Iraqis are, however, having worried eyes on the occasion. In the course of military presence in Iraq – declared to defuse Saddam Hussain's nuclear weapons – the US government encountered security challenges and regional pressures in Iraq, criticisms and financial burden at home.
The ceremony marking the closure of the US military's headquarters near Baghdad came after US President Barack Obama hailed the "extraordinary achievement" of the war in a speech to welcome home some of the troops. It was attended by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, General Lloyd Austin, the commander of American forces in Iraq, and the US ambassador to Baghdad James Jeffrey.
Iraq experienced a regime change as result of the US-led invasion in 2003 but security remained hard to achieve and thus took lives and spent resources at a level higher than was anticipated. Huge costs were paid to rebuild Iraqi forces and enable them to tackle the insurgency on their own.
Five years later than insurgency stood at its height in 2006, the transition is completed smoothly. Today, Iraqi officials are hopeful they can manage the process independently while some Iraqis and many outsiders express concerns on a post-American era in Iraq because of some domestic and external elements pouring oil on the fire of domestic clashes. Despite improvements in securing the country, security challenges remain high there.
The withdrawal will end a war that left tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 4,500 American soldiers dead, many more wounded, and 1.75 million Iraqis displaced, after the 2003 US-led invasion unleashed brutal sectarian fighting. In an aircraft hangar at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Obama was cheered by soldiers as he honoured nearly nine years of "bleeding and building." "Tomorrow (Thursday), the colors of United States Forces - Iraq, the colours you fought under, will be formally cased in a ceremony in Baghdad," he said.
"One of the most extraordinary chapters in the history of the American military will come to an end. Iraq's future will be in the hands of its people. America's war in Iraq will be over." Before leaving for Iraq to the attend the ceremony, US defense Secretary said In Afghanistan, "Our mission there was to establish an Iraq that would be sovereign and independent, that would be able to govern and secure itself.
And I think we've done a great job there in trying to achieve that mission". "It doesn't mean they're not gonna face challenges in the future. They're gonna face terrorism, they're gonna face challenges from those that will want to divide their country, they'll face challenges from just the test of.. a new democracy and trying to make it work. But "the fact is that we've given them the opportunity to be able to succeed," said Panetta.
OnFriday, Iraq assumed command of the last US military base in the country. Baghdad's security forces will take over a sprawling installation on the outskirts of the southern city of Nasiriyah, a senior Iraqi official said, a final step ahead of a complete American withdrawal from Iraq in the coming days. More than 100,000 Iraqis have been reported killed since the invasion, according to British NGO Iraq Body Count.
The bloodshed was only quelled when then-president George W. Bush ordered a "surge" of American troops to Iraq, and Sunni tribal militias sided with US forces against Al-Qaeda. Attacks remain common, but violence in Iraq has declined significantly since its peak. Iraq has a 900,000-strong security force that many believe, while capable of maintaining internal security, is unable to defend its borders, air space and maritime territory. Some US observers also fear a return to bloody sectarianism and doubt the strength of Iraq's political structures.
In the meanwhile, regime change required planting democracy in Iraq to give citizens the rights they were denied under Saddam. Democratization would be the only promising output for Iraqis as result of US military attack, unremitting violence and loss of lives.
If fail to institutionalize democracy, Iraqi government and the NATO countries involved in the post-Saddam Iraq would have simply wasted time and resources, taken lives and imposed a setback on Iraq's economic development process. Iraqis are still struggling for basic facilities in life. Electricity and clean water shortage is the clearest indicators for what Iraqis have suffered following US presence there. It needs to have brought them a political change in return. Change in regime promised hopeful future for Iraqis who endured dictatorship during Saddam rule.
Political development has been of high significance for new Iraq. The country has been struggling to institutionalize democracy. Having taken some vital steps towards democratization of the political process, there are certain domestic and external concerns to be addressed aptly by Iraqi government to help process of democratization thrive further.
The post-Saddam Iraq has suffered a lot because of regional and international competitions and rivalries exercised there. The country's 2nd parliamentary elections and the controversial outcomes clearly indicated that. Non-democratic neighboring states have so far created big troubles for the nascent democracy. Proxy wars harassed the country and caused social cleavages get deepened.
Political theorists have asserted that a country's sovereignty is its indivisible, eternal and total control over its domestic and external affairs and no foreign forces owns the right to make illegal interferences in its restricted area of authority. But the principle has at times been violated in respect with the weak and fragile states.
Establishing external relations, a country always keeps the right to define its national interest and build relations accordingly. As soon as external powers start meddling in a country's internal affairs or tend to make use of it as a battlefield for proxy wars, its independence is threatened.
No need to say, the entire nations have the right to pursue their legal interests in all parts of the world; but that is surely different from launching proxy wars and violating a nation's right to independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Alike Afghanistan, Iraq have stood at the center of troubles, with Arab and Non-Arab countries making regular intrusions.
With the Arab Spring having stricken many of Iraq's neighbors, some analysts maintain that Iraq, following US's withdrawal, enjoys great opportunity to ensure security against foreign meddling. Thus, the Maliki government, Iraqi political parties and civil society will have to focus on domestic divergences and imbed democracy.
Being comfortable in absence of regional interferences, Iraq needs to strengthen social incubators for embracing democratic rules, promote tolerance among religious and ethnic groups and fight against corruption.
Moreover, success of pro-democracy protestors in the region will help the process survive in Iraq too. Sami Moubayed, an analysts having eye on Middle Eastern and Arab states, writes, "Iraq will only rise from the ashes once it is surrounded by democracies in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Iran. For Iraq to succeed, the Arab Spring needs to succeed throughout the Arab world, and at one point reach Iraq as well".