The last combat troops have left Iraq! The war is over!
Except, of course for the fact that many, many (like 50,000) remain, and more are on the way to replace them as they continue to withdrawal, which will take until the very, very end of 2012.
But... but... he said....
No, Virginia, there are no more combat troops in Iraq.
Technically, what remains in Iraq are Advise and Assist Brigades. If you look very closely at the force structure of these brigades, and their associated equipment, you'll see they are pretty damn close to Brigade Combat Teams. They are comprised of Soldiers, all of whom are Lawful Combatants--but somehow not "Combat Troops."
Guess what? All Soldiers are "combat troops." No Solider is a "combat troop." You are either a cobatant or you aren't. The soldiers in Iraq are still going to be under fire, getting blown up by IEDs, shot at by snipers and mortared. The difference now is that they will "advise" and "assist" (for varying degrees of advise and assist) the Iraqi Army and Police into capturing the bad guys.
Does this sound familiar? You're damn right it does. It sounds Exactly like what I was doing as a Company Commander way back in 2005. I had a counterpart Iraqi company commander, three police chiefs, a mayor, and a council of Sheiks, all of whom I advised and assisted to varying degrees.
The difference? We were then fighting evil Booooosh'es war, but we had the manpower, budget, and support at home (and in the White House) to do our jobs. Now, our safety and security outside the wire is wholly in the hands of The Iraqis we trained, we still carry weapons, but are only supposed to use them in extreme-self defense, and have to get a warrant to enter a "suspects" home. We don't even detain prisoners. If someone shoots at us, and then we catch them, we have to hold them for the Iraqi police, who may (or may not) hold them for trial.
Yep, doesn't sound like combat to me, either.
Sounds an awful lot like trying to "end" a war, instead of win a war. I realize there must be a drawdown, that we can't (or shouldn't) be there forever. But I also realize that the exit is best made under OUR terms. Like leaving and saying "Okay, we've given you democracy, freedom, suffrage, rule of law and the right to self-determine free of intimidation from thugocracy. If we have to come back in the next 50 years, we'll kill every last one of you." And saying "What we think you should do is "X", an we'll help with "Y," but we are leaving by "Z." So please take our advise so we can get all our stuff and people home safely, then we'll leave you alone.
I'm just having a hard time truly believing in this mission. And as far as 90% of America knows (or cares), we don't have any more troops in Iraq.