AAM: "This war now is under Iraqi control."
June 30, 2009
Michael talks to Kiran Chetry about the end of the American-led war and the beginning of the Iraqi-led war. A total of 4,323 US servicemembers have died since the war began; an untold number of Iraqis (estimated between 80,000-100,000) have died.
KIRAN CHETRY: U.S. forces have officially turned over control now of Iraq cities to Iraqi Security Forces. The country declaring today a public holiday called National Sovereignty Day. And Iraqis were celebrating during the overnight hours with fireworks, dancing in the streets, singing in central Baghdad.
U.S. troops and tanks didn't leave all at once. There's been a slow drawdown as we know. The numbers going lower and lower. Most were gone by this past weekend.
Our Michael Ware is tracking things live in Baghdad this morning. And on the day that we talk about this, also word of another attack, right, that left some U.S. soldiers dead?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it just had to finish that way, didn't it, Kiran? I mean, in the final hours of the U.S.-led phase of this war, four more American soldiers laid down their lives.
Now, if we look at this U.S.-led period from the invasion in March 2003, until midnight last night, that's a total of 4,323 U.S. servicemen and servicewomen have died here on Iraqi soil. Now, it's no way to compare these sorts of things. But the Iraqis have also paid for this war in blood. Tens upon thousands, some put it at 80,000, some put it 100,000 civilians and soldiers, have died since this conflict began.
But where I'm standing right now, having been here when this war started and being here now when the American-led phase is finished, it's honestly -- it's quite a lot to take in. But, this war now is under Iraqi control.
130,000 American troops are still here. They're underwriting the stability, but it's the Iraqi government, from this moment on, that's firmly in control, Kiran.
CHETRY: You know, it's interesting. Sampling public opinion here, we have a brand new CNN/Opinion Research poll out and it shows that 52 percent, about half of people think that violence is going to go up in Iraq. It's interesting, though, because coupled with that, they say they still don't want to see an increased U.S. troop presence in Iraqi cities despite that. Are you seeing that concern on the ground?
WARE: Well, absolutely. I mean, obviously, as you pointed out quite rightly, there's been joyous celebration. I mean, I've just come from an official Iraqi military parade where I watched troops and national police and tanks and armor streaming past me. I mean, this is Iraqi National Sovereignty Day. And we can't underestimate that Iraqis are fiercely nationalistic. Yet, we're also in the midst of a long-running bombing campaign being led by al Qaeda in Iraq and its allies with the intention of bombing Iraq back into sectarian civil war. And let's not forget, Iranian-backed Shia militants are still lobbing missiles and mortars on the U.S. embassy.
So it's with some deep regret that I do tell you the bombings and the deaths are going to go on. But it's now for the Iraqi government to answer those sorts of attacks and to try to prevent more deaths.
And interestingly, I think we've mentioned -- we've mentioned before, there's some mixed emotions here among the Americans. It's hard to celebrate when today intones the memory in so many of those American deaths. And I can certainly tell you that the American commander here, General Ray Odierno, was not present at the ceremony this morning because he was far too busy with other matters.
This is not an easy day for anyone in any measure, Kiran.
CHETRY: Not at all. But as you said, the people in Iraq, at least many of them celebrating this formal milestone today.
Michael Ware for us in Baghdad. Thanks.