NR: "The Iraqis showed very little indication of any desire to bring the American troops back."
June 30, 2009
Ali Velshi talks to Michael about how likely it is that the Iraqi government will ask American troops for assistance.
ALI VELSHI: Today was a national holiday in Iraq. There were fireworks and parades marking the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraqi cities. Iraq calls it National Sovereignty Day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iraqi people are rightly treating this day as a cause for celebration. This is important step forward as a sovereign and united Iraq continues to take control of its own destiny.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: About 130,000 U.S. troops are still in Iraq. Most have been pulled back to U.S. bases. Some will stay in the cities as trainers and advisers.
And when General Ray Odierno was asked how many, he got a little testy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: If you are going to be so transparent, why can't you tell us how many trainers and mentors are in the cities?
MAJ. GENERAL RAYMOND ODIERNO, COMMANDER, MULTI-NATIONAL CORPS- IRAQ: Because it would be inaccurate, because I don't know how many are in the city. It varies day to day based on the mission.
QUESTION: You must have a ballpark.
ODIERNO: I don't know how many times you want -- how many times do you want me to say that? I don't know. What I am telling you is, it's training and advising teams that remain in Baghdad. And it will be different every single day. And we have worked very closely locally with the commanders to figure this out.
And it will be different tomorrow than it is today. And that's why I don't want to say a number, because it will be inaccurate.
What I am telling you is, it is significantly lower than it has been so far.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: General Odierno apologized a little later for losing his temper.
But the fact remains, U.S. troops are still in Iraq, and the violence continues. A bombing in Kirkuk killed at least 30 people and injured almost 50 more.
CNN's Michael Ware joins us live from Baghdad.
Michael, give us a sense of what's going on and what is really changing in Iraq with respect to U.S. troops.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the first and foremost change is that America is no longer in a position of control.
Over the last few years, it has remained in control, but in a much more consultative way with the Iraqis, as they slowly, bit by bit, started to stand up. Now, technically, America is out of the decision-making process.
Even those trainers and advisers of whom General Odierno speaks cannot set foot in Iraqi cities without first asking the permission of the Iraqi government or waiting for an invitation.
So, that means that America has surrendered its ability to wage war here. Technically, again, casting forward, no matter how bad the violence might get, unless American troops are being directly attacked in their bases, there is nothing General Odierno can do, unless the Iraqi government asks for help -- Ali.
VELSHI: What's the likelihood, Michael, of that happening? Is there some sense that U.S. troops are going to be called off their bases routinely to come in and relieve Iraqi troops?
WARE: No. No. No. No. No. I wouldn't imagine so.
I mean, there's a number of factors here. And to be as concise as I can be, one, Iraqis are fiercely proud. They have been waiting for the end of what they consider a foreign occupation for over six years. They are not going to take a backward step, either as a community or the government.
In terms of this agreement that was draft -- that was signed by the Bush administration in the dying weeks of its government, any little areas of wiggle room or discussion, the Iraqis have maintained the hardest of hard lines.
Case in point, the northern city of Mosul, that is al Qaeda's last urban stronghold. That's where the concentration of al Qaeda fighters is believed to be. Now, ideally, the Americans would have liked to have had a little bit of room to maneuver in Mosul, to stay within the city, yes, sure, under Iraqi guidance and much more at their behest, but still there.
No, the Iraqis were not interested. It didn't happen. So, the Iraqis showed very little indication of any desire to bring the American troops back, because, you know, first, they want to prove to themselves that they can do it. They want to do it their way, which is not the American way.
And, ultimately, if you want to be cutthroat about it, there's other nations in this region who will help them. They don't have to turn to America, if they don't want to -- Ali.
VELSHI: All right, a momentous day, a big day for Iraq.
Michael Ware, thank you for keeping us posted and -- and really giving this to us in terms that we understand -- Michael Ware in Baghdad.