The Army and Marines in Iraq have adapted from their earlier troubles to a counterinsurgency strategy that is working. General Petraeus should be given as long as he needs.The cut-and-run policy of the Australian Labor Party in Iraq – combat troops will be withdrawn by mid-2008 – damages the long-term prospects of an allied policy to defeat terrorism in Iraq and involves turning our back on the welfare of the Iraqi people. The numerical impact of the withdrawal is small but the propaganda impact is significant.
What is certain is that next January U.S. forces will still be deployed in Iraq in large numbers. Securing the conditions by which they can drive out al Qaeda and tame the Shiite militias, deter Syria and Iran, and guarantee Iraq's integrity and freedom would be a worthy legacy for this Administration, and a useful inheritance for the next.
Of course the ALP bears partial responsibility for any terrorist carnage in Iraq that is consequent of an excessively hasty withdrawal.
Australia cannot easily influence the foolish policies of Obama and Clinton in the US to withdraw troops, just as the surge is beginning to work, but the Australian promise to withdraw troops by mid-2008 is one Kevin Rudd should not keep.