The Iraqi government has recently moved to restrict the movement and activities of U.S. forces in what appears to me to be an amended version of their 6-month-old U.S.- Iraqi security agreement. Hopefully, there is something lost in translation because if there isn’t, commanders on the ground as well as the president’s cabinet should be deeply concerned.
Under no circumstances should we be agreeing to any condition that could jeopardize the safety and security of the men and women who are defending us here or abroad, be it Iraq or anywhere else.
Under the initial agreement that consisted of three milestones, June 30 was the deadline for moving U.S. troops out of Iraqi towns and cities, the intent being a reduction in troop size from 130,000 to 50,000 next year around this time.
U.S. commanders have began the pullout in accordance with the agreement, but have kept several combat battalions assigned to urban areas to remain engaged in training Iraqi security forces, meeting with paid informants, attending local council meetings, and supervising U.S.-funded civic and reconstruction projects.
In an order dated July 2, Iraq’s top military commanders told their U.S. counterparts to "stop all joint patrols" in Baghdad and advised them that the U.S. resupply convoys could travel only at night, almost like they intend for the Americans to become invisible.
Joint patrols benefit both the Iraqis and the Americans in the event that they must engage in combat or respond to threats, and adherence to the new order would strongly limit our supporting role and perhaps jeopardize our troops. Limiting the U.S. troop movement for resupply convoys to nighttime could also be extremely dangerous if we agreed to it.
Our troops are still in Iraq at this point to assist the Iraqis in securing and stabilizing their country, by means of collecting intelligence, responding to threats, or engaging in combat operations when necessary.
The strict application and adherence of this new agreement could limit our ability to do any of the above, not to mention could place our troops and commanders in serious jeopardy.
The radicals and extremists, who appear to have recently increased their attacks with the use of Iranian support, will quickly realize the new limitations on the U.S. troops and make every effort to use them to their advantage, placing our men and women in danger.
We cannot let that happen.
Iraq today is a free and democratic country, based strongly on the blood, sweat, and tears of U.S. forces and other coalition countries that have gotten them to where they are today.
If the Iraqis now feel that they can do it on their own, then so be it — get our people back home where they belong. But if the Iraqis still feel a need for the added security element or supplies that we provide or the use of the intelligence we collect, then they cannot restrict us in any way, shape or form that could jeopardize our people on the ground.
This isn’t a political issue and our political leaders have to do something they rarely do – listen to the commanders in theater. If they feel that the application of this new agreement hinders them in anyway from keeping our men and women safe, then it’s time to pack it up.
It’s just the right thing to do.
Bernard Kerik served as the 40th police commissioner of the New York City and Iraq’s interim minister of interior following the fall of Saddam Hussein. Today he is the chairman of The Kerik Group LLC. Visit his Web site at: www.thekerikgroup.com.
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