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On Air: Is it the right time to withdraw US combat troops from Iraq?

Ben Sutherland Ben Sutherland | 09:41 UK time, Tuesday, 31 August 2010

iraqchoppers466.jpgThis post was written by Claudia and posted by me.

The Iraqis are "going to be just fine", reassures US Vice President Joe Biden in Iraq.

He's there to represent the Obama administration at the official end of the US combat mission - seven-and-a-half years after the invasion began.

So, mission accomplished then? Well, not quite.

For a start - as Corey Flintoff points out - the Obama administration is keen to avoid comparisons to its predecessor when talking about ending its combat role:

The "Mission Accomplished" speech, which Bush delivered on the deck of a returning aircraft carrier in May 2003, haunted the Bush administration as Iraq spiraled downward into insurgency and sectarian conflict amid problems that haven't been fully resolved today.

And what problems. Insurgency continues, with the country on its highest state of alert for terror attacks; there has been no formal government since the March elections; and major cities remain without electricity and other government services.

So is this the right time for the combat troops to leave?

Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyer Zebari, has his concerns:

"It is the fulfilment of that election pledge. But it is embarrassing for them to withdraw and still we don't have a government in place, because all the achievements, all the sacrifices that have been made, could be in jeopardy. It is embarrassing for us also."

From his prison cell, Tariq Aziz, former Deputy to Saddam Hussein, has been more forthright:

"He is leaving Iraq to the wolves... When you make a mistake you need to correct a mistake, not leave Iraq to its death."

But there is another story, one highlighted by of the New York Times's David Brooks.

He points out that this year Iraq will have the 12th-fastest-growing economy in the world, one expect to continue to grow at seven percent over the next few years. He also points out inflation is stable, unemployment is massively down and oil production has returned to pre-war levels.

Living standards are also improving... 833,000 Iraqis had phones before the invasion. Now more than 1.3 million have landlines and some 20 million have cellphones. Before the invasion, 4,500 Iraqis had Internet service. Now, more than 1.7 million do.

Perhaps economic signals like this suggest it is time for Iraq to stand on its own?

What do you think? Is this the right time for combat troops to leave? Is this a good decision for Iraq or one driven by political needs in the US? Do you fear for the future of Iraq without the troops, or think that it is now that the country can prosper?

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