Wednesday, July 25: "Reality Check: Withdrawing from Iraq" by Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV. Kessler explains why any withdrawal from Iraq would be "complicated and dangerous."
The Pentagon said it will take a good year to safely bring home troops, transport equipment and move support personnel. At the same time, 50,000 civilians working for private contractors will also depart, leaving Iraqis behind amid certain chaos and violence.
There's MORE. More than 2 million Iraqi refugees have already fled, with most going to Syria and Jordan. Two million more are displaced within Iraq.
When U.S. troops leave, humanitarian groups say hundreds of thousands of Iraqis may try to leave also to avoid bloodshed, creating a refugee crisis.
Saturday, July 28: "Iraq withdrawal: five difficult questions," by Bill Marsh, New York Times. An abridged version ran in Saturday's StarTribune; see the Times web site for the full text. Marsh examines five practical questions of a withdrawal:
1. How Fast Can the Troops [physically] Leave? "Large numbers of American soldiers have left a modern war zone, but never so many from a still-hostile region."
2. Can Departing Soldiers Be Shielded From Attack? "Troops concentrated in convoys that are transporting huge quantities of supplies out of Iraq make tempting targets...Withdraw with casualties now, or risk a better exit in a few years? How great is that risk?"
3. What to Take? What to Leave? What to Destroy? "'The faster you move out, the more you have to leave behind or destroy,' said Mr. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 'There’s no ideal.' Voters and political candidates, he says, are looking for a quick-exit 'fantasy.'"
4. How Long to Repair and Ship Vital Equipment? "At the end of their duty, sophisticated combat aircraft aren’t simply loaded on to ships bound for the United States. They must be thoroughly washed of sand and contaminants until sterile, then shrinkwrapped to protect them from sea air. 'Everything has to be cleaned and pass an agricultural inspection," said William G. Pagonis, a retired three-star Army general who directed logistics in the 1991 Persian Gulf war. 'It’s not an easy task.'"
5. Who Stays Behind? "There are up to 100,000 Iraqi contractors, perhaps more, working for the United States. After a pullout, many of them could be at risk from reprisals by anti-American forces."
Sunday, July 29: "Sounding off: Iraq veterans look back," by Curt Brown and Mark Brunswick, StarTribune. Minnesota National Guard troops returning from their 16-month deployment in Iraq tell it like it is, and amazingly, most of the stories published are supportive of U.S. presence in Iraq. Check out the web site for audio clips of these soldiers' stories in their own words.
Monday, July 30: "A War We Might Just Win," by Michael E. O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack, New York Times. Excerpts:
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms.
Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.
In war, sometimes it’s important to pick the right adversary, and in Iraq we seem to have done so. A major factor in the sudden change in American fortunes has been the outpouring of popular animus against Al Qaeda and other Salafist groups, as well as (to a lesser extent) against Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
How much longer should American troops keep fighting and dying to build a new Iraq while Iraqi leaders fail to do their part? And how much longer can we wear down our forces in this mission? These haunting questions underscore the reality that the surge cannot go on forever. But there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.