A top Missouri Congressman calls it "a turning point"; the US military movement out of the cities of Iraq, handing their security over to the Iraqi military.
West-Central Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, says the action to leave the cities to the Iraqi defense will allow the US to focus even more attention on Afghanistan.
"That was our primary effort and we, sadly, neglected it over a period of time," Skelton tells the Missourinet, "but in truth and fact, they’re the ones who attacked us back on 9-11. Do you remember?"
The Iraqi government celebrated the withdrawal by declaring Tuesday a national holiday. The celebration was marred by violence. Late in the day, a car bomb exploded in an outdoor market in Kirkuk, killing at least 24. Four American soldiers were killed in combat Monday in Baghdad.
The United States and Iraq had reached an agreement at the beginning of the year that American troops would withdraw from the major cities by the end of June. American troops now are only to respond in the cities if the Iraqi military requests their presence. The next milestone for Iraq will be the parliamentary elections in January.
American troops remain in rural Iraq. Their numbers total 120,000. Trainers and advisers also remain to help the Iraqi military battle insurgents.
Skelton says the US violated a major tenet of war going into Iraq: never take on more enemies than you can afford.
"We had Afghanistan, which was a major one. Remember that’s the genesis of the attacks on Americans. That’s what we should have done is concentrate on that," Skelton says. "But we spread our forces and found ourselves in two places and found it very, very difficult to do both."
Skelton says the move out of the cities will ease the strain on the American military even as it focuses the country’s attention on terrorist hold-outs in Afghanistan.