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Dec 13th, 2008

Iraq May Need U.S. Troops for Decade

Dec. 11, 2008

WASHINGTON — Iraq will need a U.S. troop presence to help build up its military forces past the newly agreed three-year deadline for the withdrawal of American soldiers, a senior Iraqi official said on Thursday.

Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said some U.S. forces could be needed for 10 years but told reporters that the terms of any extended presence would be negotiated between the next Iraqi and U.S. governments.

Washington and Baghdad recently negotiated a status of forces agreement, or SOFA, that calls for U.S. forces to leave Iraq’s cities by mid-2009 and withdraw from the country by the end of 2011. The pact takes effect on Jan. 1, when the current U.N. mandate governing U.S. forces in Iraq expires. …

The Iraqi government has said its military will be ready to take over security in urban areas by next summer. But U.S. officials believe it will take years for Iraq to field the logistical and air support needed to sustain a modern fighting force.

Britain, the main U.S. partner in Iraq, will start pulling out its 4,100 troops in March due to the improving security situation, a British defense source said on Wednesday. …

President-elect Barack Obama, whose first term in office would expire Jan. 20, 2013, has called for U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Iraq in 16 months but has left the door open for some forces to stay behind to train Iraqis and battle insurgents.


12/13/08 Update

Some U.S. Troops to Stay in Iraqi Cities

Dec. 13, 2008

BALAD, Iraq — Some American troops will remain in Iraqi cities after a June 30 deadline for combat soldiers to leave urban areas, the top U.S. commander said Saturday.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, dismissed suggestions by his own spokesman that the Iraqi government may ask some U.S. troops to remain behind as trainers after the Dec. 31, 2011, deadline for the withdrawal of all American troops set by the new U.S.-Iraq security agreement.

Those comments are likely to rekindle debate here about the agreement, which was ratified by parliament last month and takes effect Jan. 1. But Iraqi voters must approve the deal in a referendum by the end of July. …

Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of coalition forces in Iraq, told reporters that troops who serve in training and mentoring teams would not be included in the mandate to pull combat troops from the cities. …

Political pitch

During the coming elections, al-Maliki is expected to present himself as the leader who defeated terrorism and ended the U.S. occupation — an attractive message to a people worn out by nearly six years of war.

Al-Maliki insisted that the security agreement include specific dates for a U.S. withdrawal, winning those concessions from the Bush administration which had steadfastly refused for years to accept timetable for an end to the unpopular war. …

“What was announced about the Iraqi forces needing 10 years in order to be ready is only his personal point of view but it doesn’t represent the opinion of the Iraqi government,” al-Maliki’s office said in a statement.

Opponents of the security agreement maintain that the U.S. military presence is the main reason for the instability still plaguing the country.

Meaningless timetables?

Al-Dabbagh’s remarks were widely reported in Iraq, and critics seized on them as a sign that the guarantees of an American departure were not ironclad.

“I think that al-Dabbagh is paving the way to back down from the timetables mentioned in the security agreement,” said Dhafir al-Ani, a Sunni Arab lawmaker.

Nasir al-Saadi, a lawmaker loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said the comments showed the withdrawal timeline was meaningless.

“I think that al-Dabbagh’s comments are the first sign that nobody is going to adhere to the timetables and the U.S. soldiers are staying in Iraq beyond the 2011 date,” he said. …


Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wave to journalists as they attend an official meeting in Tehran, August 8, 2007. (Photo credit: Xinhua/Reuters)

Iran Seen Reining in Actions in Iraq

Dec. 11, 2008

WASHINGTON — Iran has made a conscious effort to restrain Iraqi Shi’ite militias from attacking U.S. and Iraqi forces in recent months, U.S. and Iraqi officials said on Thursday.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, who oversees a Pentagon program to combat roadside attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Shi’ite use of munitions known as as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, has dropped to as few as 20 incidents per month, from as high as 80 per month, within the past 90 days.

Metz told Pentagon reporters the data suggest the elite Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards has made a conscious decision to rein in EFP use among Shi’ite militia. …

The United States has long accused Iran of supplying EFPs to Shi’ite militias in Iraq for attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces. Iran and its Shi’ite leaders have denied stoking violence in Iraq and instead blames attacks on the presence of 149,000 U.S. troops.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh agreed Iran has restrained its actions inside Iraq and said that was because Tehran concluded that a recently signed security agreement between Baghdad and Washington posed no threat to Iranian security. …

“Iran should understand that in order to be a good partner they should respect international law and they should refrain from interfering not only in Iraq but in the region,” said Dabbagh, who called for a renewal of talks between U.S. and Iranian officials in Iraq. …

Iraq’s Shi’ite and Sunni insurgents placed 411 IEDs in October, down from 1,321 a year earlier, the statistics showed. About 290 were found before they exploded while another 101 exploded but caused no casualties.

Twenty-one roadside bombings did cause coalition casualties in October. That was down from more than 80 in October 2007, according to the statistics.

3 Responses to “Iraq: ‘Ten More Years’”
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