Pulling Back in Iraq: Reflections

President Obama lays out plans to withdraw combat units from Iraq at month’s end. We get a boots-on-the-ground perspective on the sweep of the war.

In this June 29, 2010 photo, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Richard "Ross" Coffman, left, talks to a village sheik in al-Bailona, Ninevah province. (AP)

When President Obama took office, there were 144,000 troops in Iraq. By the end of August, there will be 50,000 left.

Yesterday, the President said combat missions are ending. As the U.S. pulls back – and eventually out – of Iraq, we’re reflecting on the meaning of that toil, sacrifice, service and bloodshed. What it means for regular Iraqis, and for the armed forces who gave much, and lost comrades.

Today, we hear two in-depth war accounts, from a soldier-author and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.


From Baghdad, we’re joined by Anthony Shadid, Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times. His latest book is “Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War.”  

David Finkel, Pulitzer Prize-winning staff writer for the Washington Post. His book “The Good Soldiers,” chronicling a battalion that was part of the U.S. “surge” in Iraq, is now out in paperback. You can read an excerpt. You can watch some video, narrated by him, about his time in Iraq.

Matt Gallagher, former Army captain who served in Iraq from 2007 to 2009. His memoir of his days in Iraq is “Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War.” You can read an excerpt.


It’s worth listening back to our show this year on “The Hurt Locker,” where we spoke with real-life bomb squad members, and our segment with NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling on troops coping with brain injuries.

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