Looks like the drawdown of US troops in Iraq is in full swing:
The U.S. military has 8,000 troops left in Iraq as it continues its move to withdraw all troops before the end of the year, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick said Thursday.
Helmick, deputy commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq, said in a conference call from Baghdad that all troops will be out of the country before this month ends, as planned.
As U.S. troops leave Iraq, the question remains how successful Iraqi security forces will be at preventing violence from recurring, Helmick said.
“We really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Helmick said. “We do know we have done everything we can in the time that we have been here for the Iraqi security forces to make sure they have a credible security force to provide for the internal security of their country.”
Republicans have been skeptical of the withdrawal, fearing that Iran may exert increased influence without a significant US presence in Iraq, and that the move to pull up stakes now may backfire if Iraq's government isn't stable.
Indeed, Helmick's remarks imply that Iraq's future is murky -- but he maintains faith in the Iraqi government's ability to take the reins:
Helmick said the biggest challenges facing Iraqi security forces are logistical issues between a multitude of different police agencies, their ability to sustain forces and their ability to share intelligence.
After U.S. troops leave, the nation will continue to have an embassy in Baghdad with 16,000 people. Helmick said the embassy will have to rely on Iraqi police forces to keep the it secure.
“We have no option,” he said. “My gut tells me they will be capable to do this. They’re doing it today.”
Let's hope his optimism is well-placed.