As I said before, I didn't intentionally time my leave to coincide with the 30 June deadline in Iraq, which mandates that all combat forces leave the cities, but it's kind of strange it worked out that way. As of now, American forces are in the process of moving. Kind of like the picture, eh? Like it?
Anyway, I'm not going to be so dramatic as to say that I will return to a completely different Iraq when I come back after two weeks on the Great Barrier Reef (sucks to be you guys). However, I'll just throw in a little speculation as to what might happen.
American troops will be reversing the maneuver which kicked off the surge--namely, moving combat troops out of small outposts inside the cities. The onus of security will be placed squarely on Iraqi forces.
Some interesting articles in the past week or two may give us some insight into what might happen in the coming months, with the Iraqis taking the lead. The big question on everyone's mind is whether or not the security situation will get worse, and if so, how bad. I think that, undeniably, violence will increase. That goes without saying. But will the next few months lead to complete anarchy? It's doubtful we'll see the levels of violence we saw in 2006. I think that most agree that the Iraqi Army and Police have improved since 2006, and Shia/Sunni reconciliation has begun to take place (or completed ethnic cleansing in mixed neighborhoods, you take your pick). Ultimately, for all their flaws, they're the best hope for peace in Iraq. And it's better they do it tolerably--a few hours late, and snagging some pr0n along the way--than to have us do it for them. The key, of course, is tolerably--in 2005 and 2006, the Shia-dominated Army was adding to the violence, not helping to reduce it. In 2009? Well, we'll soon find out. My huge concern at this point is the ability of the Iraqi Army to absorb the Sons of Iraq into the security apparatus. As of a few months ago, it looked like the sagging economy was going to impact the funding available to the police and security forces, which in turn, would affect how many of the Sons of Iraq the government could afford to employ. Incorporating these men into the security plan is vital for prolonged stability.
One question that hasn't gotten that much attention is what will happen not only between the Sunni and Shia, but also between the Arabs and Kurds. While I would venture to say that there won't be massive pitched battles between the Iraqi Army and Peshmerga fighters in the next few months, the situation in Kurdistan still leaves many unresolved issues.
Anyway, I could see those as the leading challenges in the next few months. Will the world come to an end in the next, oh, six months or so? Probably not. Will we see more bombings, and shootings? Probably. In a strange way, that might actually be progress for them...