NR: "Essentially, America has been underwriting the peace."
June 28, 2009
An hour later, another update on the withdrawal, focusing on how the residents feel about it. Also, Michael has his just-showered towel on hand (which presumably is now covered in dust from the open window?)
BETTY NGUYEN: US combat troops in Iraq are packing up, they are not coming home, though. They are moving out of Iraq cities. Our Michael Ware joins us now from Baghdad.
Michael, this move is part of that security pact signed by Baghdad and Washington, so how are Iraqis reacting to this move?
MICHAEL WARE: Well, it's very much a mixed bag of emotions here, Betty. I mean, in the minority, there's a group of Iraqis who are very fearful. In fact, one woman I spoke to said that the concept of the handover fills her with horror. It's been the US military that's provided overwatch to keep some of the warring factions apart. Essentially, America's been underwriting the peace and there's some Iraqis who feel that that may now fall apart.
However, by and large, it is a mood of almost celebration that, "Yes, the Americans are going." State TV actually has a font 24 hours a day right now marking the countdown to the US retreat to their bases. And indeed, June 30, which is the landmark day, has been declared a national holiday for all Iraqis. Something, I have to tell you, has aggrieved some within the US mission here on the ground because they feel that to celebrate so openly this day belies the sacrifice of the 4, 318 servicemen and women who laid down their lives and the tens of thousands more who were wounded here in Iraq.
So it's truly going to be a day of mixed emotions on both sides of the fence, Iraqi and American -- Betty.
NGUYEN: Yeah, no doubt. Even to celebrate, too, in the midst of concerns and questions over whether the Iraqi security forces can even handle the load once the US troops pull out. But they are not actually coming home, these US troops. Where will they be going, what will they be doing?
WARE: What they're doing is, they are pulling back to bases outside of the city. Now, you can imagine, during the course of this war, the US forces have had a proliferation of major bases -- called FOBS, Forward Operating Bases -- smaller bases, patrol bases, joint security stations... I mean, anything from 10,000 personnel sized facilities down to something that just fits 30.
Now, dozens and dozens of these have been closed, so the troops are withdrawing, pulling back into large bases outside the city limits that have been pre-approved between Baghdad and Washington. And by and large, they won't be able to move outside of those bases. Not unless they're directly attacked and exercising their right of self-defence or unless they go cap in hand and ask the Iraqi government for permission to leave. However, over the next 18 months, the Bush administration that started this war ended it by signing this agreement that dictated the timetable for the withdrawal -- over those 18 months, all these troops bit by bit will eventually be pulled out and there will be no US combat boots left here on Iraqi soil. And what happens after that is anyone's guess -- Betty.
NGUYEN: Yeah, that is true, but I guess in that case they won't be facing what you're facing right now. Behind you is that sandstorm. It is the craziest looking thing from here because it's nothing but yellow in the background. What's going on there?
WARE: Well, this is Iraq. It's yet another sandstorm. Indeed, a bunch of oil companies that were coming in here -- their representatives -- to sign oil deals for June 30 can't make it. That event's been postponed. This is just a regular part of business and obviously it requires frequent showering, which at your suggestion I did just before I came on air. So thank you for that personal hygiene note, Betty.
NGUYEN: Well, you look great. I noticed your hair did look a little wet, I figured you took my advice, and you may have to do quite a few of those today with that sandstorm there, so get used to it.
All right, Michael, we appreciate it. We'll be chatting with you shortly. Thanks.