Despite flowery speeches, discussions of "transition", and 50,000 "non-combat" troops remaining, America is still losing men and women and spending tens of billions of dollars in Iraq. And as violence escalates once again, and a new government remains elusive nearly six months after parliamentary elections, some worry that U.S. forces may have to resume "combat" operations.
While the Obama administration has enacted a significant drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq, it has spent $66 billion in FY 2010, and is projected to spend $46 billion in FY 2011. In 2009, the U.S. lost 149 troops, while it has lost 47 so far this year. These casualty rates are a far cry from the early years, but every bit as tragic. War proponents also claim that many of these latest deaths have been non-combat related.
Recently, there has been a disturbing rise in sectarian violence with multiple bombings becoming a daily occurrence. This has prompted the U.S. Commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, to raise the prospect that U.S. troops may be forced to return in larger numbers, though he added that such a prospect is highly unlikely. In addition, Odierno stated that the U.S. may entertain staying beyond its complete withdrawal deadline of December 31, 2011 if asked by the Iraqi government, an option the Obama administration does not seem to advocate at this time.
Beginning in September, the 50,000 "non-combat" troops will be playing more of a support role, assisting in counter-terrorism operations, training Iraqi security forces, and monitoring sectarian violence. Make no mistake. These men and women in uniform will be in harm's way, especially with Al-Qaeda and other sectarian groups ramping up attacks across the country.
So, despite fanciful qualifications and adroit political jargon, America is going deeper into debt, and is still losing precious men and women. To the hardworking U.S. taxpayer and the brave U.S. soldier walking the streets of Baghdad, this is no benign, cost-effective foreign policy operation. This is war!