Tens of thousands of Iraqis flooded the streets of the nation’s cities today, celebrating the official departure of the US military from the cities. Baghdad officials said the celebrants were cheering “because it’s the first day that they’re going to protect themselves.”
Though the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) doesn’t technically require troops to be out of the cities until Tuesday, General Odierno announced yesterday that the troops had already left and were in full compliance of the requirement.
But while the parties started today, the official celebration begins tomorrow, as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has declared June 30 “National Sovereignty Day.” The national holiday will include a concert sponsored by Maliki.
Iraqis seem eager to celebrate the withdrawal of US troops, though they’re only leaving the city limits for bases along the outskirts and may be invited back at any time by the Iraqi military. There also remain serious doubts over the Iraqi government’s ability to provide security, though the growing number of attacks in recent days suggest the US forces hadn’t been doing a tremendous job in that regard either. Still, with Iraqi officials daring the terrorists to launch even more attacks the celebrations may be short-lived.