“We regarded their existence here as an occupation” – political analyst

After the US officially drew a line under its combat operations in Iraq this week, American soldiers are marching out of the country while thousands of armed security contractors are flooding in.

In addition, tens of thousands of American troops will stay on, but only to provide training for local security forces.

The cost of the Iraqi campaign has been high. It has taken almost a trillion dollars from the country’s coffers, not to mention the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

To date, already 120 private security firms are operating in Iraq and the number is expected to more than double in the next few months.

Hisham Mahmoud manages one of the longest-established private security companies in Baghdad, made up of both Iraqi and foreign personnel.

Pilgrims Security started in 2003 after America’s invasion of Iraq, but business has never been as good as it is now. In the last month his client base has doubled.

“Now most of the government offices are protected by local security companies, like the banks, Even now the parliament will give it to a security company to do the security,” Hisham Hassan Mahmoud, manager at Pilgrims Security Company, said.

However, regardless of their number, private security companies are unable to stop suicide bomb attacks.

Hussein Fadhil was out buying groceries when he heard the first blast a few streets away. He rushed home in his car, only for a second, and then a third bomb to rip his life apart.

Bombs intended for foreigners at three of the country’s leading hotels left dozens dead, including many Iraqis.

The Flowers Land hotel, which stood opposite Hussein’s house, became a hellish scene.

“My wife, daughter and two visitors were wounded. My brother who lived next door, his wife was killed,” said Fadhil. “Like everything that happens here, the attack was with political motivations. These terrorists are protected by the Americans, so maybe now with the American soldiers gone, the Iraqi government will finally be able to act more freely.”

In the last 18 months more than 90,000 American troops have left Iraq. 56,000 now remain – 6,000 more than American president Barack Obama promised would still be in the country come the end of August.

They are staying to train local forces with no combat missions unless requested by the Iraqi authorities.

The reduction in US forces is welcomed, say locals.

Political analyst Hashim Alhaboubi told RT “I do not believe there is one Iraqi who is not happy that America is withdrawing. We regarded their existence here as an occupation. Seven years ago, the security situation was much better than it is today. The only exception is that Iraq now has a solid base to move towards democracy.”

Entifadh Qanbar returned to Iraq in 2003 full of hope and expectation. He spent years living in exile in America as an opposition voice to Saddam Hussein. Now he feels betrayed and disillusioned.

“The United States committed serious mistakes in Iraq and the mother of all mistakes is the declaration of occupation by accepting the resolution of the United Nations Security Council 1483 in May 2003,” evaluates Enifadh Qanbar, Deputy Leader of Iraqi National Congress. “We said then that the United States has stepped down their moral stance, and it’s a big mistake.”

“They came as liberators, they did not have to be occupiers, they could have helped us to form an interim government from day one,” Qanbar shared.

However, nearly seven years after then-US President George W. Bush declared “Mission Accomplished,” many would doubt even now such an assertion.

Washington still needs to find a way to declare victory in a country that remains in a political and social stalemate.