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A BROKEN DREAM OF INDEPENDENCE [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2011-12-15 18:52:01 |Display all floors
Leon Panetta attends flag-lowering ceremony to mark troops' withdrawal and says US will not turn its back on Iraq.

US defence chief Leon Panetta has officially ended the US's military presence in Iraq by saying that "the dream of an independent and sovereign Iraq is now a reality" at a ceremony at the US military headquarters in Baghdad.
Thursday's flag-lowering ceremony in the Iraqi capital comes ahead of the final withdrawal of all US troops from the country by the end of the year, prompting celebrations for many Iraqis but also uncertainty regarding the stability of the country.
Nearly nine years after the start of the controversial invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and sparked years of violence, Panetta told Iraqis "Your children will have a better future", and said the US and Iraq would have "a new relationship rooted in mutual interest and mutual respect".
"We are not about turn our backs on all that has been sacrificed and accomplished in Iraq," Panetta said.
There are currently about 4,000 US troops still in Iraq, operating out of two bases in Diwaniya and Bhiqar provinces. That number is down from 170,000 at the height of the war.
A small contingent of troops remain in Baghdad, but will pull out following Thursday's ceremony.
While US President Barack Obama lauded the achievements of some of the last US troops to return home on Wednesday, residents of Baghdad were jubilant that the soldiers were leaving.
"I'm very happy because the occupier is leaving the nation ... the country will be ruled by its sons who will maintain it and keep its sovereignty," Salah al-Asadi, a tribal leader, told Al Jazeera.
"It's a joy for all Iraqis, not only for me. The US withdrawal from Iraq is something very big for us ... because the country’s security will be in the hands of our brothers at the police and the army, they are from us," said Abdelaziz Adel, a public servant.
While US troops are pulling out, Washington is ramping up its diplomatic presence in Iraq, reported Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf from Baghdad.
"The US presence here will shift to a diplomatic, political and very much an economic one. To do that, they're keeping a huge embassy. It will be the biggest US embassy in the world ... between 15,000 and 16,000 people," she reported.
There are concerns among regular Iraqis that the US will leave behind a country that is politically unstable, Al Jazeera's Omar al-Saleh reported from Baghdad's central Tahrir Square.
'The end of the war'
The US president paid tribute on Wednesday to about 3,000 soldiers gathered at the Fort Bragg military station in North Carolina on Wednesday, saying he was proud to welcome them home after what he called an "extraordinary achievement".
"Over the last few months, the final work of leaving Iraq has been done. Dozens of bases ... that house American troops have been closed down or turned over to the Iraqis," Obama said, adding that troops would leave the country "with their heads held high".
Jubilation in Fallujah
Iraqis have received news of US troops pullout with jubilation - and thousands in the city of Fallujah took to the streets to celebrate on Wednesday in an event dubbed as the first annual "festival to celebrate the role of the resistance".
Demonstrators rallied across the city, shouting slogans in support of the "resistance", a reference to the campaign by Iraqi fighters in Fallujah that was a bastion of opposition against the invasion.
Some burned US and Israeli flags while others held up banners and placards inscribed with phrases such as "Now we are free" and "Fallujah is the flame of the resistance".
Others carried posters bearing photos of apparent fighters, faces covered and carrying weapons. They also held up pictures of US soldiers killed and military vehicles destroyed
Widespread fighting in Fallujah against the occupation begun in 2003, after a controversial event known as the "pupil's uprising".
The city was also the focus of two major US offensives in 2004 after four US employees of US private security firm Blackwater, since renamed Xe and later Academi, were killed in the city.

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Post time 2011-12-15 18:54:00 |Display all floors

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This post was edited by aziz at 2011-12-15 18:58

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Post time 2011-12-15 19:00:16 |Display all floors
DREAM
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Post time 2011-12-15 19:03:34 |Display all floors
US troops' remains buried in landfill site

US defence department to investigate why body parts of 274 soldiers were dumped in public landfill site.


A scandal involving the dumping of the remains of hundreds of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan is proving to be a huge embarrassment for the US military.
  


Four investigations are already under way, and one report is expected to be delivered to US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday.

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Post time 2011-12-15 19:06:58 |Display all floors

The Secret Iraq Files
After the biggest leak of military secrets ever, this special programme reveals the truth about the war in Iraq.

It is the biggest leak of military secrets ever. Al Jazeera has obtained access to almost 400,000 classified American documents. Torture, claims of murder at the checkpoint - revelations that make a mockery of the rules of combat.

Over the past ten weeks, working with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, Al Jazeera has read tens of thousands of documents, which we sourced through WikiLeaks.

There is a good reason that Washington did not want you to see them. They reveal the covering up of Iraqi state torture to the truth about the hundreds of civilians who have been killed at coalition road blocks.

The documents sourced through WikiLeaks cover six years of war. And while they mainly deal with day-to-day events they also allow us to paint a big picture. We are getting an insight into the rise of al-Qaeda in Iraq - who pays for it and how it gets its money?

We will be finding out what the Americans really think about Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, and we will reveal details about Iran's secret war inside Iraq, and America's massive use of air power - is it as precise as they claim?

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Post time 2011-12-15 19:09:24 |Display all floors
THE COST OF A WAR

The war in Iraq has already cost US taxpayers more than $800bn since the 2003 invasion began.

The vast majority of that money was spent by the US Department of Defense, with the balance appropriated for the State Department and USAID programmes, as well as the treatment of casualties by the Veterans Administration.

$50bn was spent on military operations in the first year, and that amount rose steadily to nearly $140bn in 2008.

The annual cost of the war has fallen steeply since then with just over $45bn requested for this financial year.

US civilian aid expenditure peaked early in the confict with nearly $20bn committed to rebuilding the country in 2004.

Since then, the State Department has not committed more than $4bn in aid in any one year.

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Post time 2011-12-20 13:37:07 |Display all floors
Iraqis who aided US left behind and fearful

Long delays for visas mean thousands of former interpreters for US remain in Iraq, afraid of assassination.

BAGHDAD – It was supposed to be a simple deal: Work with the American occupation here for one year, and earn a visa to resettle in the United States.

John put in 27 months as a linguist and adviser, both with the military and with a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) attached to the US embassy in Baghdad. Last November, midway through his tenure with the Americans, he applied for a visa under a special State Department programme.

Thirteen months later, he is still waiting for an answer, and worries that he might be killed before he gets one: The Iraqi government has been gathering details about people who worked with the US military, and John fears that information could be leaked to armed groups; and he has received several anonymous, harassing phone calls from people who know about his work history.

“It’s a fact to these people, we betrayed our country, anyone who worked with the Americans,” he said in an interview. “They think we don’t even deserve to be Iraqi.”

Huge backlogs

As the last US troops depart Iraq this month, they leave behind thousands of former colleagues, like John, who thought they would have emigrated by now. (John is not his real name, of course; he asked to remain anonymous, both to protect his safety in Iraq and his visa application in the United States.)

More than 140,000 Iraqis worked with the United States during the nearly nine-year war and occupation., and tens of thousands have since applied for immigration visas in the United States.

The US issued only a handful in the early years of the war. A law passed in 2008 created the Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) programme, which was supposed to expedite the process: It allocated 25,000 visas over five years for Iraqis who worked with Americans and face an “ongoing threat” in their home country.

But four years later, only about 7,000 of those visas have been issued, according to the State Department, with more than 30,000 applications pending a decision.

The process has become especially slow this year, after the Obama administration started requiring more detailed background checks for visa applicants. Just nine people received visas under the SIV programme during the entire month of April.

“We’re concerned about anybody who’s at risk in this country,” said James Jeffrey, the US ambassador here. “We have programmes that allow some of them to travel to the US, and huge backlogs in these programmes, that’s true… a lot of it is the processing back in Washington.”

Iraqis who worked with the US say those risks are escalating now that the last American troops are preparing to leave.

“All of the people around me know that I was working with the Americans,” said Mark, another former PRT adviser. “Anybody who was against the US troops, I feel that I am in danger from them.”

The average wait for the SIV programme is now more than nine months, even for those Iraqis with clean records and good recommendations. John’s visa application paperwork, which was reviewed by Al Jazeera, includes a glowing letter from his supervisor, who described him as a “reliable professional with great integrity”.

A separate “threat statement” outlined the dangers he faces if he remains in Iraq, noting that he has received several threats from members of Jaish al-Mahdi, a Shia militia.

“These insurgent groups and some of the local Iraqi population consider [him] a traitor,” the statement said.

'This is crazy'

And so they wait, thousands of them, often in hiding. The Iraqi newspaper Sabah al-Jadid reported last month that many former interpreters were throwing away any paperwork that identifies them as such.

Of a half-dozen interpreters contacted for this story, only two were willing to discuss their situation.

“For nine months I am jobless, waiting for that visa. I have nothing to do,” Mark said.

Others have fled the country: More than 18,000 Iraqis who applied for the SIV programme are currently in neighbouring Syria and Jordan, according to the United Nations.

Mark, who worked for more than two years with reconstruction teams in Baghdad and Anbar provinces, has been waiting nearly ten months for a visa; he was interviewed for the SIV programme in March, and has heard little from the embassy since.

“They said we should wait at least six months, but this is crazy,” he said. “All the people around me know that I was working with the Americans. We feel that we are in danger from anyone who was against the US troops.”

Neither the Iraqi nor American governments have kept detailed statistics, but more than 300 Iraqis who worked with the US have been killed since the war began.

They are targeted by a variety of armed groups, both Sunni and Shia. John said he has received several calls this year from people with detailed information – not just that he worked for the Americans, but where he worked, and what he advised them on.

“They’ll call and say, ‘hi, is this John from the PRT?’” but using his real name, John said. “And they’ll say, we need you to come up to Tarmiya,” a neighbourhood where his unit used to work.

He suspects that someone sold the information to an armed group. Provincial reconstruction teams used to spend heavily – buying greenhouses for farmers, for example – but that money has dried up as the teams closed down.

“So after we’re done… then okay, there’s not any more interest in the relationship, so they give it [the information] to whoever will pay,” he said. “I don’t feel safe… I’m afraid of these groups, and the Iraqi government, I don’t trust at all.”

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