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In Iraq, Little To Show For Lost Lives, Billions Spent

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In Iraq, Little To Show For Lost Lives, Billions Spent


In Iraq, Little To Show For Lost Lives, Billions Spent

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Iraq yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from its cities. By the end of this summer, only 50,000 U.S. troops will be left in the entire country - a country that now finds itself at a crossroads. While violence is down from the levels of 2006 and 2007, many Iraqis say the U.S. is leaving behind a nation that is at best a work in progress.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from Baghdad.

(Soundbite of vehicles)

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Every day, convoys like this one are rolling out of Iraq carrying the machinery of war. This one of the largest and most complicated drawdowns in U.S. history, and one of the speediest. The message from America's politicians, military men and diplomats is clear. The Iraq War -at least America's role in it - is over.

U.S. forces are now assuming a training and advisory role. Bases are being handed over to Iraqis every week. General Jerry Cannon heads the detainee operation for the U.S. Come mid-July, the last U.S.-run prison will be given to the Iraqis.

General JERRY CANNON (U.S. Army): We're very forthright with them. The end is near.

(Soundbite of Iraqi television)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: On Iraqi television yesterday, songs extolling Iraq's sovereignty played over and over to mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq's cities.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing in foreign language)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One begins: Iraq, surely you will be powerful again. Your days and nights will be joyful again. But these days, people here are anything but.

(Soundbite of protesting)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: For the past few weeks, Iraqis have been demonstrating all over the country because of continuing power shortages. But water, roads, the hospitals and the schools are also in a state of disrepair. It's been more than seven years of bloody conflict. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died, at least 4,400 U.S. service members have given their lives. Security is better, if you use the benchmark of the worst years of the civil war.

General Michael Barbero is in charge of training Iraqi forces. He says over the past year, nationwide, security incidents have decreased over 45 percent.

General MICHAEL BARBERO (U.S. Army): Today we're talking about political issues, not security issues. I think it's a level of maturity and development of Iraq.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But Iraq is a country with little to show for the billions of dollars spent and the lives lost, says Iraqi politician Mahmoud Othman. Four months after parliamentary elections, Iraq's fractious political parties are still negotiating over the formation of a government. It's an acrimonious and sectarian process. And Othman says the players seem to have little sense of anything other than their own narrow interests.

Mr. MAHMOUD OTHMAN (Politician, Iraq): They are not in touch with the people, these people. You look at them, where they are living. They are isolated from people. That's why I don't think they are moving. They don't feel the responsibility.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He charges that the U.S. could act as an honest broker, but seems totally disengaged.

Mr. OTHMAN: Obama administration, they want to get out of Iraq. They have exit strategy. It's very clear, they want to get out.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: In an interview with NPR, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill says the troop withdrawal - a product of an agreement with the Iraqis - does not signify a lack of interest. But he adds, the days when America would directly intervene in Iraq's political affairs are indeed over.

Ambassador CHRISTOPHER HILL (U.S. Ambassador to Iraq): We need to be mindful of what is proper engagement - that is, for us to be acting in an inappropriate way, in a way that suggests that this is our decision and not the Iraqi decision.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But says Mahmoud Othman, whatever form that long-term relationship takes, he fears that Iraq will be tainted by what the invasion and war have left behind.

Mr. OTHMAN: I think it's a failed state. And I think day and day, you see it's more going more towards being a failed state.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Baghdad.

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