My platoon patrolled the streets of Baghdad in the summer of 2003 and met with many in the Iraqi community who were excited with the idea that we were bringing them America. Today, at the end of summer 2008, the Iraqi government is laying the groundwork for our soldiers to finally begin their strategic redeployment. Secretary Rice is in Baghdad today continuing to lay the groundwork for problems that the next President and Congress will have to deal with.
The current mandate which lays out the United States military's rights and responsibilities in Iraq will expire in January of 2009 and The Washington Post reported today that the Bush Administration and Iraqi officials are close to a "memorandum of understanding" that will further delineate those rights and responsibilities. Iraqi officials are demanding the inclusion of a timeline and the exposure of our troops to Iraqi legal jurisdiction in the new memorandum. While the United States should never expose our troops to another country's legal jurisdiction, the Iraqi's requests mark a significant step forward in a strategic redeployment of our troops.
The negotiations mark the first real effort by the Iraqis to diplomatically initiate the transition to a true sovereign nation. While our soldiers continue to serve honorably, we must begin a strategic redeployment and bring them home safely, securely, and soon. This agreement could be the beginning of such a redeployment, if we have representatives in Washington, D.C. committed to bringing our troops home and veterans in Congress who truly understand the intricacies of the military and, specifically, Iraq.
Benjamin Franklin once said; "Words may show a man's wit but actions his meaning." It is quite convenient for the Bush Administration to be drawing up this memorandum, but it will be up to the new Congress and thereby the American people to determine if these words are put into action. Voters need to ask their representative if they will commit to a strategic redeployment of our troops or if they subscribe to John McCain's 100 years strategy.
I applaud the Iraqis for wanting to take greater control of their country and security. Our soldiers continue to serve honorably completing missions even in the shadow of Washington's failures. We must begin a strategic redeployment and bring them home safely, securely and soon.
As a nation, we must refocus on the looming national security threats in Afghanistan and Pakistan. With the forced resignation of President Musharraf in a destabilizing nuclear Pakistan and increasing violence as the radical elements surge in Afghanistan/Pakistan border areas, our mission there faces real challenges. America must reengage its efforts to bring real security to what is becoming one of the most dangerous situations on the planet.
It will be up to the next president and the next Congress to enforce any agreements put together during the Bush administration. It will be necessary to send voices to Washington that have a firm understanding of what it takes to end the war in Iraq and reform our national security policies.