The American invasion of Iraq began six years ago, and a lot has happened: the nation descended into a civil war, 4,259 American soldiers were killed, over 1.3 million Iraqis are estimated to have died, and victory has been declared countless times.
But while the war has largely fallen off the front pages, it continues on with no real end in sight. Sure, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) only covers a US deployment through the end of 2011, but the Iraqi government has already made it clear they’re operating on a much longer timeframe.
President Obama has certainly gone a long way toward supporting the notion that the war is all-but-over as well, with his talk of ending the combat operations on August 31, 2010. Yet the fine-print in the Obama Administration “pullout” plan is that 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq indefinitely past that date, and will continue to engage in combat operations.
The reality is that the US force was 90,000-strong at the end of the initial invasion, while the current troop level is 138,000: still above the pre-surge levels despite claims that the surge has succeeded. Combat deaths may well be at their lowest level since the war began, but portions of the country remain completely out of control and despite a number of new regulations alarming incidents of US troops killing innocent civilians have not vanished.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made it clear this week that pullouts must only happen with his approval, and then only in areas which are 100 percent secured. Six years on, it seems unlikely any part of Iraq could fairly be called 100 percent secured, and that seems likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future.