Image Copyright: Hans Pennink / AP Photo
As the world watches Iraq descend into the chaos America tried to pull them from during the occupation, many veterans of the war are left wondering if their sacrifices were wasted. Cities like Fallujah, Mosul, and Tikrit are falling to radical Islamists, and veterans are reflecting on the sacrifices made to take the cities from similar groups ten years ago--a war that raged for eight years and claimed the lives of 4,500 Americans.
The situation in Iraq looks more and more hopeless as the religious divides take deeper root and the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki loses more control. Many are using Iraq to point to the uncertainty surrounding the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, wondering if the country will descend into the same type of chaos seen in Iraq.
Some veterans attribute the violence to a rushed exit strategy. There is still work to be done: making the borders more secure and training the Iraqi security forces. The security forces might be the defining failure as thousands of these soldiers are surrendering their arms, deserting their posts, and leaving in front of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) advance.
The major factors for the chaos ten years ago and the chaos today are the three clashing sects: the Sunnis, Shiites, and semi-autonomous Kurds in the north. Prime Minister Maliki has notoriously favored the Shiite minority, which has divided the country along religious lines. The Kurds might be the closest they have ever been to forming their own territory in the north as the government in Baghdad struggles to defend the core territories against the lightning advance of murderous Islamists.
The US accomplished the mission of booting Saddam Hussein out of office and rebuilding some of the necessary infrastructure, but not many could have predicted chaos in such a short time following the American withdrawal. The prospect of progress and democratic growth seem more and more distant as the country relapses back into anarchy, divided by the onslaught of militant Islam. Is it possible the US withdrawal was premature? Would a stronger American presence have prevented these takeovers?
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