War in Iraq Not Over for Families of 50,000 U.S. Troops Still There

Capt. Eric Ackles (right) was sent to Iraq in July. His wife Nikki worries that the American public may now turn away from the conflict there - considering it done.

Dean Reynolds is a CBS News national correspondent based in Chicago.

Along Warriors Walk at Ft. Stewart, Ga., you can see that while combat forces are leaving Iraq, combat is not.

Under saplings that line the concrete are new graves of fallen American soldiers, the latest of which only weeks old.

Today, I spoke with Nikki Ackles, whose husband, Eric, departed for Iraq on July 1. He is one of the 50,000 troops who will stay in Iraq until next summer, guiding, assisting or whatever the Pentagon wants to call their duties in the service of the Iraqi people.

Offcially, the remaining American troops will advise and assist Iraqi forces. In Pentagon-speak they will "conduct partnered counter-terrorism operations and provide combat enablers to help Iraqi security forces maintain pressure on the extremist networks." If that sounds like combat to you, it sure does to Nikki Ackles.

"There are still bad people in Iraq who do bad things to our soldiers no matter what the name of the mission is," she said in a reference to the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the beginning of Operation New Dawn.

U.S. Re-Entry Hard for Troops in Iraq

"The way it's being said is that our combat troops are leaving Iraq," said Nikki, "but they're not."

What really worries Nikki is that Americans, hearing reports of combat forces being withdrawn from Iraq, will naturally conclude that the war is all but over and that her husband and his cohorts are only mopping up or turning off the lights. Untrue, she says.

Unlike the happy families who are welcoming back their soldiers from Iraq this week, Nikki and other family members will live for a year wondering if that knock on the door or that telephone call is bringing the worst possible news.

For now, she communicates with her husband by telephone and Skype over the computer. It's a blessing to see him, she says, but her nerves are shot. The Ackles have three daughters ages 10, 7 and 3. Abbi, the three year old, was at the desktop on Tuesday trying to raise her father on the other side of the world. "Daddy, daddy!" she shouted, but her father was not there.

"Don't forget us. We're still there (Iraq,)" Nikki said as we parted ways.

"Because the war's not over, right?" I asked.

"It's not over until every last soldier is home," she said.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.