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U.S. Troop Withdrawal is Test for Iraqi Government, MU Expert, Former U.S. Commander in Iraq, Says

June 30, 2009

Story Contact:  Emily Smith, (573) 882-3346,
Eric Greitens, (314) 588-8805,

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Today, American troops began withdrawing from Iraqi cities, six years after the first invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The troops will retreat to operational bases where they will play a supportive and advisory role to the Iraqi forces. Eric Greitens, University of Missouri public affairs expert and former U.S. Navy SEAL officer, says this moment is a positive step toward a self-governing Iraq.

"In a war that is unlikely to have any final moments of victory, the withdrawal of American forces from major Iraqi cities does represent a significant milestone," said Greitens, senior fellow in the MU Truman School of Public Affairs. "Americans have seen a steady improvement in security, governance and the capabilities of Iraqi forces. Americans will remain in Iraq, and will continue to perform a number of important functions, but June 30, 2009 may well come to represent the moment when Iraqi forces truly began to take the lead in managing security in Iraq."

As a Navy SEAL, Greitens was deployed four times. Greitens served as commander of an al-Qaida targeting cell in Fallujah, Iraq. He led his unit on missions to capture al-Qaida operatives and collaborated with Iraqi police and military forces.

"The withdrawal of American forces from major Iraqi cities represents both an achievement for American forces and a test of the Iraqi government," Greitens said. "Since the once-controversial surge strategy began more than two years ago, violence in Iraq has plummeted, and most of the al-Qaida members in Iraq forces have been defeated."

Greitens serves as a reservist in the U.S. Navy and as volunteer chairman and chief executive of The Mission Continues, which is an organization that provides service opportunities for wounded veterans who desire to continue to serve their country, but whose disabilities prevent them from continuing to serve in the military. The Mission Continues accomplishes this goal by awarding fellowships for volunteer work to veterans who have suffered severe injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan. Greitens also teaches public service, ethics and leadership at the MU Truman School of Public Affairs.

Greitens and The Mission Continues recently won a $300,000 three-year grant from the Draper Richards Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship to continue awarding paid fellowships to wounded and disabled veterans.