President Obama announced to the world Friday that he would follow through on his promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year.While not entirely clear why a press conference was required to declare he was keeping his word, it does bring to mind the final logistical move required by departing troops.
A story by The New York Times illustrates how many American commanders see this departure as their riskiest move there yet.
Photo: Google Maps
Getting rid of equipment has been a logistical morass, with the Army donating hundreds-of-millions in equipment to Iraq rather than sending it home.But the final dilemma will be getting the last troops safely out across the one road out of the country and into Kuwait.
With 40,000 soldiers and untold tons of remaining equipment, the soldiers there will have to drive themselves from Iraq — in one very long, very vulnerable convoy.
According to the The New York Times, the Army has been paying tribal leaders to help secure the 160-miles of road called Highway 8, through the desert and into Kuwait.
This stretch of asphalt, which runs south from Baghdad before turning into Highway 80, has been called the Highway of Death since Gulf War 1 when Iraqi forces were wiped out while retreating from Kuwait to Baghdad.
The massacre was so extreme that President H.W. Bush called an end to hostilities the following day. Highway 80 was used again by U.S. forces to enter Iraq in 2003.
Highway 8 is where the remaining Iraqis fled after the first assault, only to be mowed down by a fleet of Apache gunships.
That battle remained unknown to media for weeks as both roads are desolate and totally exposed.
There are no alternate routes and if a piece of road goes out, there will follow a particular type of mayhem if the convoy is forced to turn around or wait out repairs.
Today’s announcement is great news. It’s nice to see the president follow through on his promise to those troops that depend on his leadership, but the cheers should be reserved until those last 40,000 soldiers are home.
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