The U.S. is moving ahead with its withdrawal plans from Iraq. On August 24, 2010 the commander of U.S. forces in the country, General Ray Odierno, said that American troop levels had dropped to 49,700. A private Iraqi firm, Asharq Research Center, conducted a poll of 1,150 people, aged 18 and above in all of Iraq’s 18 provinces from August 15-23 about what they thought about it. The majority said that it was the wrong time for the Americans to leave.
The Asharq Research Center asked four questions of Iraqis. The first was whether it was the right time for the U.S. to withdraw. 59.8% said it was not appropriate at this time, while 39.5% said it was. Next they asked whether people were for or against President Obama’s decision to end combat missions within Iraq. Respondents were more evenly divided with 53.1% disagreeing, and 46.2% agreeing. The third question was about what affect the U.S. withdrawal would have on Iraq. 51% said it would be bad for the country, with 25.8% saying it would be positive. The last topic was whether President Obama was concerned about Iraq. Respondents had mixed views with 41.9% saying that he didn’t care about Iraq, 39.8% said he did, while 15.5% didn’t know.
The August poll shows that Iraqis are quite apprehensive about the U.S. leaving Iraq. With no new government five months after parliamentary elections, and insurgents picking up with their high profile operations such as on August 25 when simultaneous attacks were carried out in 13 different cities including Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Kut, and Karbala, it’s no wonder why some Iraqis are asking whether this is the right time for the Americans to withdraw. Despite the problems and resentment that the invasion caused, it appears that a slight majority of those polled believe that the U.S. could help with at least security. That’s a view shared by the Iraqi military as the chief of staff of the armed forces recently said that the Americans should stay until 2020 to help with national defense. Gen. Odierno made similar statements as well in the past few days. The problem is that the Obama administration is working on a Washington agenda that is caught up with the recession, the war in Afghanistan, keeping Obama’s campaign promises about Iraq, and the November elections. That means while U.S. troops will continue to work with their Iraqi counterparts on training, advising, counterterrorism, development, and governance, and a small contingent will probably remain past the 2011 deadline for them to be out, the period of massive U.S. involvement in every facet of Iraqi society is coming to an end, and nothing is likely to change that. Iraqis are going to have to handle their own affairs with all the difficulties that entails whether they are ready or not.
August 2010 Asharq Research Center Polling Results
Is it the right time for the U.S. to withdraw?
Do you agree or disagree with President Obama’s decision to end combat missions on August 31, 2010?
How will the U.S. withdrawal affect Iraq?
Does President Obama care about Iraq?
41.9% No, he doesn’t
39.8% Yes, he does
15.5% Don’t know
Agence France Presse, “Iraqis say ‘wrong time’ for US withdrawal: poll,” 8/24/10
Meek, James Gordon, “Gen. Odierno warns troops may stay in Iraq well beyond Obama's 2011 withdrawal target,” New York Daily News, 8/22/10
Shadid, Anthony, “Insurgents Assert Their Strength With Wave of Bombings Across Iraq,” New York Times, 8/25/10