by Prashant Rao
In the past couple weeks here in Baghdad, I’ve met several journalists from rival foreign news organisations, be it at press or social events, and one of the first questions asked is how long, respectively, we’ve been in Iraq. Almost inevitably, their answer contains the phrase, “Since the beginning”.
But since the beginning of what? For a hardened few, the first Gulf War in 1991 marked “the beginning”, and for others, that phrase equates to the 2003 US-led invasion. A handful have been here since the beginning of the deadly insurgency and sectarian violence that blighted Iraq for most of 2006 and 2007.
In one sense, the end of this month could provide its own beginning.
On or before June 30, US troops will withdraw from Iraq’s towns, cities and villages, and will only intervene in any situations if called upon by their Iraqi counterparts. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday that the event should be a happy one, but warned that insurgents and militias will look to step up their attacks in a bid to undermine confidence in the Iraqi security forces.
How will Iraq handle its new-found security responsibilities? No one really knows, and much could change in the coming weeks and months. Perhaps I, too, will one day be able to tell people I was in Iraq from “the beginning”.