US President Barack Obama delivered a major speech from the Oval Office on Tuesday, marking the official end of combat operations in Iraq.
As just over 50,000 US troops will remain in the country until the end of 2011 in non-combat roles, the real significance of the military draw-down is hotly debated.
But it is clear that the US remains committed to the success of the Iraqi mission, and the transition from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn will continue to require considerable investment of both money and political will over the coming years. By no stretch of the imagination is the West simply walking away.
Vice President Joe Biden is again visiting Iraq and trying to coax the political factions to find some solution to the ongoing electoral stalemate. The latest snippets of information point to a possible agreement within days, but given the history of this election we shouldn't get too excited just yet.
And in the business arena, activity is clearly increasing, especially with regard to oilfield development. To quote a headline from Forbes yesterday, “As U.S. Troops Move Out Of Iraq, Oil Companies Move In”.
The article concludes, “The rush is on for Iraqi oil”. And while oil will be the driving force, it's fair to say the rush is on for Iraqi oil, gas, roads, rail, housing, jobs … the list is practically endless.