BAGHDAD – Iraqi forces assumed formal control of Baghdad and other cities Tuesday after American troops handed over security in urban areas in a defining step toward ending the U.S. combat role in the country. A countdown clock broadcast on Iraqi TV ticked to zero as the midnight deadline passed for U.S. combat troops to finish their pullback to bases outside cities.
"The withdrawal of American troops is completed now from all cities after everything they sacrificed for the sake of security," said Sadiq al-Rikabi, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "We are now celebrating the restoration of sovereignty."
Fireworks, not bombings, colored the Baghdad skyline late Monday, and thousands attended a party in a park where singers performed patriotic songs. Loudspeakers at police stations and military checkpoints played recordings of similar tunes throughout the day, as Iraqi military vehicles decorated with flowers and national flags patrolled the capital.
Midnight's handover to Iraqi forces filled many citizens with pride but also trepidation that government forces are not ready and that violence will rise. Shiites fear more bombings by Sunni militants; Sunnis fear that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi security forces will give them little protection.
On a visit to Ramadi, a Sunni city 70 miles west of the capital, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, a Shiite, told the AP that when the sun rises on Tuesday "Iraqi citizens will see no U.S. soldiers in their cities. They will see only Iraqi troops protecting them."
The paragraphs above are only a small part of this wonderful story. Please follow this link for the rest. I can almost picture the grand party they had at Baghdad Park.
Well, I think it might be safe to say that "Today is the first day of the rest of the War." The celebrations in Iraq are a long time coming and I expect will last for some time yet.
The average Iraqi on the street had some mixed feelings today. A very deep sense of pride and patriotism comes with regaining 100% control of their cities. I can only imagine how fantastic it must feel for them today. The other emotion that grips the hearts and minds of many Iraqis is a deep-rooted fear of a possible return of the terrible sectarian killings of 2006 and 2007. How can anyone who lived through those days in Iraq not feel apprehensive now. Let us hope that the lessons learned during that time period will be remembered. I'm sure that there will be some who are not ready to quit yet, but I am also sure that they will squashed. I have to believe that the people will do whatever they have to to ensure that all the gains to date are not lost.
I am quite certain that every American, whether for or against us being there, hopes and prays that the peace holds. I am sure that almost all Iraqis feel the same way. Violence may and probably will increase somewhat in the short term but just maybe the light is visable at the end of the tunnel.
There are no words to adequately thank all of our fantastic servicepeople who had so much to do with the milestone we reached today. I know you have all heard me say this before, but I feel compelled to repeat myself: "Whenever you run into a vet, THANK them for what they do!!" You just can not fathom how much it means to them to hear it, and it doesn't cost a dime.
I just realized that this is the second post of the day. Please don't overlook the one below, it is a personal favorite of mine, and I think you will like it.