AP: Combat Operations in Iraq Are Not Over

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Again, the Associated Press strikes in favor of accuracy in media narratives.

Two weeks after the AP came out against the phrase “ground zero mosque,” the agency is recommending its reporters refrain from saying that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq has ended, despite what the Obama administration may say.

As a memo from AP standards editor Tom Kent points out:

“[C]ombat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials. The situation on the ground in Iraq is no different today than it has been for some months. Iraqi security forces are still fighting Sunni and al-Qaida insurgents. Many Iraqis remain very concerned for their country’s future despite a dramatic improvement in security, the economy and living conditions in many areas.”

Kent also argues that there is no way of knowing when the U.S. will be done with Iraq for good:

“50,000 American troops remain in country. Our own reporting on the ground confirms that some of these troops, especially some 4,500 special operations forces, continue to be directly engaged in military operations. These troops are accompanying Iraqi soldiers into battle with militant groups and may well fire and be fired on.”

“In addition, although administration spokesmen say we are now at the tail end of American involvement and all troops will be gone by the end of 2011, there is no guarantee that this will be the case.”

The solutions AP reporters should use, unfortunately are much more glum than this week’s celebratory “Iraq War Over!” coverage:

“Our stories about Iraq should make clear that U.S. troops remain involved in combat operations alongside Iraqi forces, although U.S. officials say the American combat mission has formally ended. We can also say the United States has ended its major combat role in Iraq, or that it has transferred military authority to Iraqi forces. We can add that beyond U.S. boots on the ground, Iraq is expected to need U.S. air power and other military support for years to control its own air space and to deter possible attack from abroad.”

So there’s that. But at least we got to feel good about Iraq for one week? (via Poynter)