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19 Aug, 2010 18:12

“US is not leaving Iraq, it’s just re-branding its occupation” - activist

The last US combat brigade has left Iraq two weeks ahead of the planned withdrawal at the end of the month.

However, a 50,0000-strong American military contingent will remain in the country for support and training until the end of 2011.

They will have the power to use their weapons in self-defense or at the request of the Iraqi government.

Over seven years of fighting in Iraq, more than 4,000 US soldiers have died, according to the Pentagon.

According to Mike Raddie from the London-based anti-war group Democracy Village, the US presence is there to stay in Iraq. America is simply re-branding its occupation in the country, he stated.

Essentially what is happening is that they are going to stay there for at least 20 years, that is the length of time that all the contracts have been signed,” he said. “The 50,000 troops that are there is also a misleading number because there is actually about 100,000 private contractors there. That number is likely to increase.”

They are not actually leaving,” Raddie added. “What they are doing is re-branding the occupation. Instead of calling it ‘combat operations,’ they are going to call it ‘stability operations.’”

Raed Jarrar, a political consultant from Peace Action argued that this is not the end of the occupation, but a symbolic gesture or milestone towards ending the occupation by withdrawing combat troops at this time. He explained that the Obama administration itself has not said the US is done in Iraq only that combat troops have departed.

The withdrawal is happening in accordance to a bilateral agreement, it’s a binding agreement between the US and Iraq that was signed in the year 2008. That agreement requires that all of the US troops and all of the contractors with the Department of Defense leave the country by the end of 2011,” said Jarrar.

Jarrar explained however that there is a loophole. The agreement does not address the departure of State Department and CIA contractors, which can range from cooks to mercenaries. In fact, the contractors through the State Department and CIA could possibly increase after the military withdrawal.