The AP reports that there is dancing in the streets in Iraq today in celebration of National Sovereignty Day:
BAGHDAD – Iraqi forces assumed formal control of Baghdad and other cities Tuesday after American troops handed over security in urban areas in a defining step toward ending the U.S. combat role in the country. A countdown clock broadcast on Iraqi TV ticked to zero as the midnight deadline passed for U.S. combat troops to finish their pullback to bases outside cities.
“The withdrawal of American troops is completed now from all cities after everything they sacrificed for the sake of security,” said Sadiq al-Rikabi, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “We are now celebrating the restoration of sovereignty.”
The Pentagon did not offer any comment to mark the passing of the deadline.
In a ceremony rich with symbolism, the top U.S. military commander in Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Daniel Bolger, gave his Iraqi counterpart the keys to the former defense ministry building, which had served as a joint base.
“On the eve of the 30th of June 2009 in accord with a security agreement between Iraq and America, Iraqis take the lead in Baghdad,” Bolger said.
The withdrawal, required under a U.S.-Iraqi security pact, marks the first major step toward withdrawing all American forces from the country by Dec. 31, 2011. Obama has said all combat troops will be gone by the end of August 2010.
Despite Tuesday’s formal pullback, some U.S. troops will remain in the cities to train and advise Iraqi forces. U.S. troops will return to the cities only if asked. The U.S. military will continue combat operations in rural areas and near the border, but only with the Iraqi government’s permission.
The U.S. has not said how many troops will be in the cities in advisory roles, but the vast majority of the more than 130,000 U.S. forces remaining in the country will be in large bases scattered outside cities.
Ed Morrissey strikes the right note with his congrats to the Iraqi people:
Our prayers and best wishes are with you as you take this big step towards self-determination and prove that Arab nations can thrive with democracy.
Just to the east, of course, another nation’s populace is also out in the street — looking for what Iraqis already have. Our prayers and best wishes are with them, too.
And thanks to President Bush, who took a heap of grief from all sides over the war in Iraq, but who never wavered from his commitment to seeing the mission through.
And a major shout out to the US military and coalition forces, who stood strong and greatly aided in making this formal handover possible, in spite of the naysayers worldwide, and specifically from (mostly) liberals in the US – like our current Commander in Chief who has never supported the mission there, in spite of the fact that the surge he has consistently opposed helped pave the way for this moment to take place. If it were up to him, all combat brigades would have been out of Iraq by March of 2008, and what would have ensued there would have been a genocide on a massive scale, pushed helpfully by the Iranian government we’re so eager to speak directy to without preconditions. I should also point out that when the likelihood of genocide breaking out in Iraq if we withdrew too soon was mentioned to then-candidate Obama, he acted as though in the scheme of things, it wasn’t important to the debate on whether or not we should be in Iraq. Our current Sec. of State, who was Obama’s chief opponent last year for the Democrat nomination for president, essentially said the same thing during the course of the campaign.
Lingering questions remain, like whether or not Iraq is ready to independently handle the security needs of its people, and whether or not political reconciliation will continue to take place. But one thing that is most definitely not in question: Our military’s strength, courage, and heroism is greatly appreciated and will not be forgotten. And the fact that when they start to come home, it will be with honor and distinction.
Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you do, and for all that you continue to do for this country.
Read more, via Memeorandum.