News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Troop withdrawal doesn't mean Iraqi aid should end

Now that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has finished his three-day Christmas tour of Iraq, spreading the message that our troops are getting out — slowly but eventually — a few of the details must be addressed.

Rumsfeld said Friday in Fallujah that coalition military leaders are trying to maintain "a military footprint large enough to help the Iraqis win their fight against terrorists. ... But not a footprint so large or so intrusive as to antagonize a proud and patriotic people, or to discourage the Iraqi people from taking initiative to run their own country for themselves."

Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said that instead of sending a U.S. Army brigade home, he will keep it in nearby Kuwait as a hedge against "the uncertainty of the next few months."

Certainly the United States has an obligation, after throwing the Iraqi political and physical landscape into chaos, to participate in the rebuilding effort. We welcome the news that levels of troops, which have been helping provide security, are being drawn down. But there are many other jobs left to accomplish in Iraq. The U.S. government has an obligation to help rebuild the schools, oil pipelines, mosques, roads, power plants and other infrastructure we were responsible for destroying.

After World War II, the Marshall Plan provided the equivalent of nearly $100 billion in economic and technical assistance to help European countries recover from the devastation of war.

The United States must now lead a coalition of democratic nations committed to helping Iraq rebuild its devastated infrastructure.

We are happy the troops will soon return home from a war that dragged on far too long after its objective was achieved.

But that doesn't mean the United States government or the American people can abandon Iraq. We have an obligation to help the fledgling democracy rebuild. While the U.S. "military footprint" Rumsfeld spoke of grows smaller, the United States must provide Iraq with economic and technical assistance to help it recover, grow and succeed.

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