Jessica: Yesterday, President Obama met with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss the next phase of the U.S. – Iraq relationship. By the end of this month, all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq, ending a war that has lasted almost nine years.
At this army base sixty miles south of Iraq’s capital of Baghdad, U.S. soldiers are getting ready to head out.
Does everybody have that much or…?
Lieutenant Justin Lucas: No. I don’t believe so.
Jessica: Lieutenant Justin Lucas of Lubbock, Texas was among the first soldiers in Iraq. Now he will be one of the last to leave. He is trying to keep things normal for his unit.
Lt. Luca: I think they are all excited to be getting out of here, but they’re all still very focused. They understand that there is a real threat.
Jessica: A threat because soldiers on their way out are a high profile target for anyone wanting to take one last shot at the United States.
Lt. Lucas: They would love nothing more than to bloody us up on the way out. And then they can show that to the people and say, ‘we ran off the Americans.’
“That first round is going to fit inside that groove.”
Jessica: At the war’s peak in 2007, there were 170,000 troops in Iraq. Now, just 6,000.
Still as the U.S. prepares to withdraw all troops by December 31st, questions remain as to whether or not Iraq will be able to maintain security.
President Obama wanted to keep some troops in iraq but that fell through when the Iraqi government refused to give remaining U.S. soldiers legal immunity, meaning U.S. troops would not be protected from being charged for breaking Iraqi laws.
The U.S. feared that soldiers may not receive fair trials in a country where anti-American feelings run high. So, now it is up to Iraqi security forces to protect this new democracy.
As Justin prepares to leave, he is thinking of five Army buddies.
Lt. Lucas: Justin, Jason, Damien, Pierre and José.
Jessica: Those five among the 4,500 soldiers killed in action in Iraq.
Lt. Lucas: I wonder what they would be doing. But a lot of time, I guess, I think about them it’s mostly to wonder if their sacrifice was justified.
Jessica: And while the U.S. won’t have any troops in Iraq, it will still maintain a large presence there. About 16,000 people will continue to work at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.