El Salvadoran Troops in Iraq

El Salvadoran President Tony Saca gave a send off to 380 troops of the Seventh Cuscatlan Battalion as they shipped off for Iraq on August 12. The small country remains the only in Latin American to fortify US forces in Iraq. Salvadorans had been working under Spanish command until that nation with drew troops in 2005. They now work under Polish command.

"Today we’re there until December," said Saca. By December, he argued, "the situation [in December] will be better," thus justifying the permanent return of troops. Coincidentally, that’s when the UN Security Council Resolution 1637, which provided a mandate for multi-national force in Iraq, expires.

To US observers, the Salvadoran President’s rationale for sending the next battalion comes off as pollyannish. There is little discussion here about what troops in Iraq actually do, just the most general discussion about Iraq getting better. The news media in El Salvador carefully trims stories about Iraq to the number of dead in the current car bomb attack. There’s virtually no analysis about what happens on the ground there. Saca doesn´t try to parrot US-based political rhetoric generated by the Bush Administration, opting instead for utilizing the most general terms about, "an improved situation" in Iraq.

In an almost laughable declaration, seemingly written in Washington, Antonio Almendariz, a federal Deputy from the National Reconciliation Party (PCN in Spanish), said on July 21 that, "Iraq in the short term will be able to maintain and cement its incipient democracy."

Marco Tulio, a deputy from the FMLN party which opposes sending troops to Iraq, said, "There’s no justification for sending troops to Iraq. I hope that the government won’t be docile and obedient to the US."

Either way, it seems that El Salvador will be ending its Iraq mission with little or no fanfare on December 31 of this year.