The United States has concluded unheralded, its military withdrawal from Iraq after nearly nine years of occupation, with the vestiges of its military vehicles and personnel, under the cover of darkness, rolling into Kuwait across the southern Iraqi border.
The last column of around 100 armoured vehicles carrying 500 troops whimpered across Iraqi desert overnight, much in contrast to the inaugural “shock and awe” campaign of the war, which, amid thunderous explosions, had surrealistically lit up Baghdad skies.
At the peak of the invasion, around 170,000 U.S. troops were manning the tight-fisted occupation that was being conducted from more than 500 bases around Iraq. The occupation killed anywhere between a 100,000 to a million Iraqis. Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops also died-- victims mainly of a hardy resistance that had been mounted across most of the country. During this period, the low-tech roadside bomb became a fierce symbol of resistance, claiming hundreds of American lives in a vast area, ranging from the strongholds of former President Saddam Hussein in Fallujah and Ramadi to the Shia bastions of Najaf and Basra in the south. In terms of treasure, the war cost Washington around one trillion dollars.
After the overnight withdrawal, only 157 troops will stay behind, mainly to train Iraqi forces. A handful would also remain to guard the monstrous U.S. embassy, the largest American diplomatic facility anywhere in the world.
Despite the positive spin of success imparted to the invasion by U.S. President Barack Obama and his Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, many heavyweight Arab commentators are unimpressed. In a scathing commentary which appeared in the Palestinian daily Al Quds Al Arabi, editor Abdel Bari Atwan described the self-congratulatory mission-accomplished assertions of the American leadership as the “largest festival of lies”. “What victory are President Obama and his generals talking about, following the loss of more than 5,000 soldiers, the fall of 30,000 wounded and the wasting of a trillion dollars, not to mention the ruining of their country's reputation which is now the object of hatred and hostility in the ranks of one and a half billion Muslims,” he asked. Mr. Atwan asserted that Americans in Iraq had, in reality, thrown in the towel, when faced with the resistance, and after Baghdad had forged a “strategic alliance” with Tehran, Washington's arch-foe.
Oman's daily, Al Watan, in an editorial observed that, notwithstanding the gloss that has been imparted to the pull-out, the U.S. military occupation in Iraq been only partially lifted. “The U.S. has ended aspects of its military occupation of Iraq. However, aspects of its control over politics, diplomacy and state institutions remain in full”, it observed.