By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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It's the question asked by Gold Star families -- the loved ones of our fallen -- when I meet them at funerals or public events. It's spoken quietly by the spouses of grievously wounded soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines when I visit military and veterans' hospitals.
The fall of David H. Petraeus as the nation's spy chief does not erase his long record as a military commander who turned the tide of the war in Iraq and set up new tactics for killing Islamic terrorists, his friends and military observers say.
A ceremony Thursday in Baghdad marked the final end of the Iraq war. The conflict lasted almost nine years, cost $800 billion, took about 4,500 American lives and wounded 32,000. In the end, it was a success.
After billions of dollars and nearly nine years of training, U.S. troops are leaving behind an Iraqi security force arguably capable of providing internal security but unprepared to defend the nation against foreign threats at a time of rising tensions throughout the Middle East.
The U.S. military's fast-approaching Dec. 31 exit from Iraq, which has no way to defend its airspace, puts Israel in a better place strategically to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.
Nearly three dozen U.S. lawmakers are urging U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to prevent a fresh outbreak of violence at a camp for former Iranian resistance fighters in Iraq.
It was the "mission accomplished" moment that millions of Americans had been waiting for and many of us considered long overdue: the official end to the war in Iraq and the return of all U.S. troops. Whether you believe the operation in Iraq was a noble cause or pure folly, President Obama's announcement last month that fighting men and women would be coming home to their families in time for the holidays was cause for celebration.
With the end imminent, the status of Libya's armed forces will become a prominent topic of discussion. Following the assassination of Gen. Abdel Fattah Younes, talk grew of the future of Libya's rebel militias. National Transitional Council (NTC) Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil immediately called on them to disband and join the NTC army, and recently, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, the rebel commander in Tripoli, said the disparate forces would be unified.
After American forces leave Iraq at the end of 2011, Tehran will try to turn its neighbor into a satrapy, i.e., a satellite state, to the great detriment of Western, moderate Arab and Israeli interests. Intense Iranian efforts are under way already, with Tehran sponsoring militias in Iraq and sending its own forces into Iraqi border areas. Baghdad responds with weakness, its chief of staff proposing a regional pact with Iran and top politicians ordering attacks on the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK), an Iranian dissident organization with 3,400 members residing in Camp Ashraf, 60 miles northeast of Baghdad. The MeK issue reveals Iraqi subservience to Iran with special clarity. Note some recent developments:
The U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan, known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), has taken on a daunting task — a huge increase in its efforts to recruit, train and equip Kabul's army and national police forces.
Iraqis say Diyala province, northeast of the capital between Sadr City and Iran, "controls the gates to Baghdad." In Diyala, Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds live together in small communities. Since 2003, Diyala has been a deadly area for U.S. and Iraqi forces. A memorial wall at Forward Operating Base Warhorse in Baqouba lists the names of 348 American soldiers who died in the province fighting for a better Iraq. Despite this history, like Iraq in general, Diyala is headed in the right direction.
In northern Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb in a parking lot behind a police station, killing 15 people, including six policemen.
The Pentagon is officially ending its seven-year combat mission in Iraq on Aug. 31, but the remaining 50,000 U.S. troops will still carry out missions against terrorists and the CIA will continue cooperation with Iraq's now-unified intelligence service.
Iraq's most senior military official warned Wednesday that the planned pullout of U.S. forces at the end of next year might be premature, as the White House said it was keeping to its schedule for removing troops from the war-torn country.