U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen on Feb. 16
STRATFOR has received word that effective Sept. 1, when U.S. forces, under orders from U.S. President Barack Obama, are expected to cease all combat operations in Iraq and transfer full authority to Iraqi forces, Operation Iraqi Freedom will officially conclude. The new name of the U.S. mission in Iraq will be Operation New Dawn, symbolizing a new phase in U.S. military engagement in the Middle East.
A name is but a name, but the semantic shift is nonetheless a message at home and abroad that the United States is committed to disengaging from the Iraq war by 2011. This means a number of things for a number of people. For the Iraqis — particularly the Sunnis and the Kurds — this means that their security guarantor is departing and other means of defense will have to be deployed. For Iran, this means that any efforts to keep the United States preoccupied in Iraq — and hostage to Iranian retaliation in the event of an attack on its nuclear facilities — will require enormous focus and resources. For Russia, this means the United States is freeing up its military, giving Moscow less time to consolidate influence in its near abroad. For other players around the world, the opportunities afforded by the United States’ distractions in Iraq will also begin to dissipate.
The United States has long outlined its commitment to extricate itself from the Iraq war and refocus its attention on other pressing issues, the most immediate being Afghanistan. While the shift in mission from combat to training was expected, the deeper realization of what it means for the United States to free itself from a seven-plus-year war is sinking in for many across the globe.