Clinton: ‘Iraqis are ready, willing, and able’

Hillary Clinton, Hoshyar Zebari, April 25, 2009 Today’s the supposed big day: U.S. troops are withdrawing from Iraqi cities. While U.S. troops step down, Iraqi troops are supposed to step up. But can they? Secretary Clinton is confident they can. In a press briefing yesterday, she said, “[T]here is a great deal of confidence in ...

584243_090630_IraqClinton2.jpg
584243_090630_IraqClinton2.jpg
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, and Iraqi Prime Minister Hoshyar Zebari, address the media at a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, April 25, 2009. Clinton condemned a spate of bombings over the past two days in Iraq but says the "reaction from the Iraqi people and Iraqi leaders was firm and united in rejecting that violence." (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, Pool)

Today's the supposed big day: U.S. troops are withdrawing from Iraqi cities. While U.S. troops step down, Iraqi troops are supposed to step up. But can they?

Secretary Clinton is confident they can. In a press briefing yesterday, she said, "[T]here is a great deal of confidence in the fundamental ability of the Iraqis to begin to protect their citizens." She added that despite the bombings of the last few weeks, "our assessment is that the Iraqis are ready, willing, and able to step up to this."

Hillary Clinton, Hoshyar Zebari, April 25, 2009

Hillary Clinton, Hoshyar Zebari, April 25, 2009

Today’s the supposed big day: U.S. troops are withdrawing from Iraqi cities. While U.S. troops step down, Iraqi troops are supposed to step up. But can they?

Secretary Clinton is confident they can. In a press briefing yesterday, she said, “[T]here is a great deal of confidence in the fundamental ability of the Iraqis to begin to protect their citizens.” She added that despite the bombings of the last few weeks, “our assessment is that the Iraqis are ready, willing, and able to step up to this.”

She — seen above with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari in Baghdad on April 25 — called the withdrawal a “significant milestone in the responsible withdrawal of our forces from Iraq and in Iraq’s journey to become a stable, sovereign, self-reliant state.”

FP Best Defense blogger Thomas Ricks, however, doesn’t share Clinton’s confidence. Yesterday he wrote:

Yes, Iraqi units are better trained and equipped than in the past. But that was never the problem. Rather, the point of failure was political. Sunni death squads and Shiite militias knew what they were fighting for, while an Iraqi soldier didn’t necessarily.

He ends ominously:

I hope I am wrong, and that Iraq really is embarking on a new course this week. But I don’t think so. So I think the real question now is: How fast will the unraveling occur?

What’s Clinton going to do if Iraq does unravel? She said the United States remains prepared to help out if needed. Obviously, she’s constrained by whatever President Obama wants to do, but if — heaven forbid — Iraq falls apart, she’ll be facing some pretty tough questions at her future news conferences.

Photo: Hadi Mizban-Pool/Getty Images

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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