TSR: " 'This is a day when the will of Iraq has won.' "
June 29, 2009
Suzanne Malveaux asks Michael whether the Iraqis can sustain the more-or-less stable situation. Yes...with 130,000 Americans backing them up. Hey, it's a start... They may not yet be ready for the training wheels to come off, but it is a start.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX: It's now past midnight in Iraq and the much anticipated deadline for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraqi towns and cities has arrived. The U.S. commander in charge in Iraq tells CNN's John King that he believes the country's military is up to the new challenge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. RAY ODIERNO, CMDR. MULTI NATIONAL FORCE IRAQ: I do believe they're ready, John. They've been working towards this for a long time. And security remains good. We've seen constant improvement in the security forces. We've seen constant improvement in governance, and I believe this is the time for us to move out of the cities and for them to take ultimate responsibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Let's bring in our CNN's Michael Ware, who is in Baghdad on the ground. Michael, is the general right about this? What have you seen? Are they ready?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a yes and there's a no answer to this. In a vacuum, in the ultimate truth, no. No. Iraqi security forces as they exist could not hold this stability together as we've come to know it. What's important here is that the general's right to the degree that, yes, they can do it with 130,000 U.S. combat troops still here in this country, albeit retreated to their pre-approved bases. It's the U.S. forces who are still underwriting the relative security we have now here in Iraq. And it's the U.S. forces who provide what the general calls enablers. Now, that's going to be the helicopters, the heavy artillery, and the other things that will allow the Iraqi security forces to move forward.
But certainly, the responsibility now for running this war, because, as of 40, 50 minutes ago, the American-led war in Iraq is over. This is now the Iraqi war in Iraq. Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki is now in charge, and this evening, Iraq has celebrated. There's been parties across the country. I was at one at a park in central Baghdad. Hundreds of families, Suzanne, gathered, picnicking. There was singing, chanting, bands strolling about. There was even a concert. And we've seen this in other cities, too. State TV has been running a daily countdown to this moment, and 16 seconds to midnight they started ticking down literally to the handover. The anchors were draped in Iraqi flags. And as the font said, this is a day when the will of Iraq has won, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Michael Ware, our guy on the ground in Baghdad, thank you so much, Michael.